SAN FRANCISCO – Of all the Cainings over the years, this one might have stung the least.
Matt Cain was brilliant and the Giants offense provided no support in a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday – a script that fans at AT&T Park have seen played out far too often over the years.
There was some encouragement in this result, though. The Giants need Cain to pitch with confidence in his fastball, challenge hitters and throw sharp and smart offspeed stuff again. He did all of that while holding the Rockies to just four hits and a run while striking out eight in seven innings.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning and the Giants offense, which is starting to cool off after a blazing start, couldn’t rally even though Rockies left-hander Brett Anderson lasted just three innings because of a contusion on his pitching hand.
Starting pitching report
Cain pitched backwards in his season debut at Arizona and he did plenty of looking backwards when he surrendered three home runs in his next start at Dodger Stadium.
His home debut was a different story. Cain wasn’t especially efficient, throwing 116 pitches in seven innings and issuing three walks. But two of those walks were to No.8 hitter D.J. LeMahieu to get to the pitcher’s spot.
Cain pitched out of danger several times by retiring Carlos Gonzalez, one of the NL’s hottest hitters. Three times Cain faced Gonzalez with less than two out and a runner in scoring position. He got him to pop up twice in foul ground, and froze him on a third-strike fastball. That was nothing new for Cain; Gonzalez was 4 for 41 against him entering the game.
Cain also contained Tulowitzki, who entered a .328 hitter with 10 of his 19 career hits going for extra bases. Tulowitzki made hard contact while ending two innings but was able to collect an RBI in the third.
The run Cain allowed was more a product of circumstance than fat pitches. Charlie Blackmon, who really is the NL’s hottest hitter (he’s batting .500), drew a walk to start the third and the Rockies executed a perfect hit-and-run. Brandon Barnes’ grounder to the right side snuck through the hole that second baseman Joaquin Arias had just vacated in order to cover the bag. After Gonzalez struck out, Blackmon and Barnes executed a double steal and Tulowitzki lofted his sacrifice fly to right field.
It was the sixth time Cain lost despite giving up one run or fewer and it was his fourth career 1-0 loss. The last one came May 22, 2010 at Oakland.
Jean Machi retired Gonzalez and Tulowitzki in the eighth and Yusmeiro Petit pitched the ninth as the relievers retired all six hitters they faced.
At the plate
The Giants only managed three hits and they didn’t come at the right times. Pablo Sandoval hit a leadoff double in the fourth but Michael Morse grounded into a double play.
That was the only runner the Giants had in scoring position until the eighth, when Brandon Crawford hit a drive to deep left-center and Gonzalez appeared to lose it in the sun for a double.
The hit came off hard-throwing lefty Rex Brothers, and Crawford improved to 6 for 12 against left-handed pitchers this season. He has three doubles and a triple among those six hits.
Last year, Crawford collected just two doubles and a triple in 146 at-bats against lefties (while hitting .199). He might be hitting his way out of that platoon talk now.
The Giants loaded the bases against Brothers when Brandon Hicks drew a pinch walk and Hunter Pence drew another with two outs. But Sandoval struck out on a slider to end the inning.
The Giants are 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position over two games with the Rockies – and Madison Bumgarner’s grand slam accounts for the hit.
Angel Pagan, who had hit safely in all 10 gamed played this season, was 0 for 4.
One day after Sandoval exited for a late-inning defensive replacement, the third baseman played a clean game that included a nice grab deep in foul territory on Gonzalez’s pop-up in the first inning.
The Rockies made the flashiest plays to take hits away from counterparts, though. Tulowitzki robbed Crawford and third baseman Nolan Arenado made a diving stop to take a hit away from Sandoval.
The game’s biggest defensive contribution belonged to Wilin Rosario, though. The Rockies’ catcher isn’t known for his airtight defense, but he made two difficult blocks for Brothers – including one on an outside pitch when he was set up inside – to prevent a run-scoring wild pitch in the eighth.
The Giants announced 41,917 paid.
The Giants and Rockies conclude their three-game series in Sunday. Tim Hudson (2-0, 1.15 ERA) takes the ball against right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who will make his season debut. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.