Blanco: 'We showed we can get back on track'
Matt Cain took a no-hitter into the fifth inning on the one-year anniversary of his perfect game. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
PITTSBURGH – Has Matt Cain’s life changed since the perfect game? Nope. Does he get better tables in restaurants? Nope. Does his wife, Chelsea, treat him any differently?
“She just calls me Mr. Perfect all the time,” said Cain, who holds a deadpan almost as well as he throws a baseball. “Yeah, right. More like Mr. Imperfect."
A year to the day that Cain threw a perfect game in a 10-0 victory over the Houston Astros, the right-hander took the mound again and pitched the Giants to a 10-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
No, he wasn’t perfect. But two hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings is pretty darn good. And Giants manager Bruce Bochy eagerly accepted it. His club entered the game with a 5.30 ERA on the road – the highest in the majors. And getting quality innings away from AT&T Park has been such a struggle.
It was a bonus that it came from Cain. This is a team that takes its cues from the rotation. And this is a rotation that takes its cues from its longest tenured member.
“Well, I do think it can help,” Bochy said. “These guys feed off each other and they try to keep up with each other.
“It’s what we need – more quality starts and more guys getting deeper in the game. That’s going to be the difference, really, in our season.”
Bochy acknowledged he did think of Cain’s perfect game at various points Thursday night, and a no-hitter was on everyone’s mind until Garrett Jones singled to start the fifth inning.
Cain didn’t pay any heed to anniversaries after the game began. But leading up to it …
“It was weird,” he said. “When the day started coming around, it was like, `I’ll be throwing that day, won’t I?’”
Cain still has a very imperfect 4.70 ERA. He won’t start for the NL All-Star team again. But that one strange inning at St. Louis aside, he’s been exceptional over his last three starts – one run on six hits in 18 2/3 innings – and he hasn’t given up a home run in five consecutive outings. (Prior to that, he served up 13 of them over a seven-start span.
“I feel like I’m throwing a lot better,” Cain said. “Just eliminating that big inning. I feel I’ve done a good job of that for some years and for some reason I got out of that habit. It’s putting that in the past and getting guys out.”
Cain (5-4) worked on some small adjustments, but said the biggest one has been more mental than physical.
“Once you put those `do nots’ and ‘don’ts’ in your mind … that’s just a hard way to go through life,” he said.
It’ll be a hard road back to the postseason if the Giants rotation can’t begin to follow Cain’s lead. Barry Zito (0-4, 11.28) and Tim Lincecum (1-3, 5.40) have been catastrophes away from AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner's last quality start on the road came April 30.
But Cain always has been synonymous with stability. So when it comes to rebuilding the confidence of a rotation, the foundation is a good place to start.
“We need to,” Cain said. “We haven’t thrown the ball the way we’d like and we have to take pride as starters to turn it around. We’ve had little blips of it and then we get out of it.
“I think we feed off each other. But we all have to do that. It can’t be one guy or one start. It’s got to be all of us together and we’ve got to start doing it together. It could be today. “