What's wrong with Matt Cain?

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What's wrong with Matt Cain?

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS Thirteen. That was Matt Cains unlucky numberMonday night.

There are plenty more numerals of note you could citeafter Cain couldnt escape the sixth inning in an 8-2 loss to the St. LouisCardinals at Busch Stadium.

The Giants have lost six of his last nine starts since the perfect game. He has a 4.40 ERA over that span. He gave up his 17th home run of 2012 after surrendering just nine all of last season.

Cain would appear to be in a genuine funk. He certainly appeareddispleased while managing clipped answers to reporters after the game.

But when you examine his start pitch by pitch, 13 of themstand out the ones the Cardinals fouled off with two strikes.

The Cards fouled off a whopping 37 of 114 pitches in all, and 13of those prolonged at-bats. Matt Holliday spoiled a pair of two-strike pitchesbefore doubling on a curveball to start the fateful, three-run sixth inning.Rafael Furcal, who had a 10-pitch at-bat in the second inning, fouled off a 3-2pitch with runners going before drawing a walk.

And Matt Carpenter fouled off a 1-2 changeup before reachingout to turn a fastball on the black into a two-run single.

So its no surprise, when asked what he could improve from his past few losses, Cain responded: Putting away guys better.

Easier said than done especially against the Cardinals.

The only way you can go about it, maybe is just try toexpand a little more, catcher Buster Posey said. But you can get where theyre eitherspoiling them or taking them. Its a good lineup and I thought Matt threw theball well. Even the two-out single was a pretty quality pitch, I thought.

So did manager Bruce Bochy, who had to know the second-guessquestion was coming: Why did he leave Cain (with 110 pitches, including 26 inthe sixth) out on the mound to face Carpenter with the bases loaded in thesixth, especially since the left-handed pinch hitter was 3 for 3 against him inhis career?

You wouldnt want to come out, would you? Bochy said.

Cain has earned plenty of capital and trust over the years.Nobody would deny that. Bochy decided to spend some of it.

Hes a strike away from a pretty good start, Bochy said.

Instead, he was charged with five earned runs in 5 23 innings. Now the questions will come, and they will be obvious: Cainhas a 4.40 ERA since he threw his perfect game, with history riding on each ofthose 125 stressful pitches. He had a 2.18 ERA through that start, and the Giants had been 10-3 in his assignments. Now they've lost six of nine.

Is there a correlation?

Im going out there to do a job, said Cain, stayingultra-laconic. Thats the only way I look at it.

Is he feeling healthy and strong?

Yep.

Cain is always an interesting subject to evaluate. Those who use advanced metrics have been forever fascinatedby his suppressed home runfly ball ratio, sometimes calling it unexplainableor unsustainable but certainly calling it an outlier.

Last year, just 2.9 percent of Cains fly balls were homeruns; the NL average was 7.9 percent. It was the most extreme example in whatsbeen a career trend: The league ratio has never been lower than 7.1 percent since Cain broke into the majors.Cains ratio had never been higher than 6.7 percent.

This season, perhaps hes deviating to the norm. His home runflyball ratio is 7.7 percent, nestled right up against the NL average of 7.9percent.

But for all the hmmmmmms those numbers might generate, the gopherball isnt what dug Cain's Monday night.The one home run he allowed came on a first-pitch curveball down that CarlosBeltran -- a pretty good hitter, we should point out -- golfed over the fence.

Actually, Cain managed to rebound well after a 31-pitchsecond inning, which included Furcals 10-pitch battle. He retired 10 of 11hitters and entered the sixth in a tie game.

You look at him inning by inning, you watch if his mechanicsare off, Bochy said. The last start (against the Mets at AT&T Park), hewas out of sync and hell tell you that. But I thought tonight he was muchbetter. He had good stuff tonight.

But the Cardinals hitters had a good approach tomatch.

Its not a new occurrence. Thats how you hit and scoreruns, said Ryan Theriot, who counted most of these Cardinals among his WorldSeries teammates last season. You spoil the good pitches, the pitcherspitches, and work the count. (Jon) Jay, Furcal thats how you create ralliesand get pitchers out of the game. Its a good night when you can foul balls offlike that.

And on the flipside? What did the Giants manage against Jake Westbrook?

Sinker, cutter, curveball he stayed out of the middle ofthe plate, Theriot said. Thats what were talking about. If you dont fightthose pitches off, its going to make for a long night. I wasnt able to dothat, and Jake was making good pitches.

The Giants will have to do a better job spoiling thosepitches, and making some loud contact, the rest of the series. The Cardinals lineup is not going to let upagainst Barry Zito, who has house-of-horrors numbers in three career starts atBusch Stadium. And with the Dodgers simultaneously playing the radioactiveRockies, losing three of four here in the shadow of the Gateway Arch or worse could make quite an unfortunate fender bender in the NL West standings.

Cains next start will come Saturday against said Rockies. They dont want to put him in positionto close a gushing wound.

Were confident every time he steps on the mound, or thenext guy, Posey said. That doesnt change. I think we feel good withwhoevers out there.

They should be. They've been spoiled for a long time.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.

 

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.