Dave Flemming made the point on the post-game wrap that we've been watching Matt Cain do the same thing for five years, namely, pitch out of tough spots. It often just feels like good luck or "dodging a bullet." But as Flemm pointed out, when it happens over and over again in a career spanning almost 1200 innings, it can't be that. It has to be good pitching. Matt Cain proved once again that he's a good pitcher. Despite, for him, lackluster numbers (103 ERA+, 1.226 WHIP), he delivered another excellent effort and put his team in position to win. Bruce Bochy was asked after the game if he saw "anything different" from Cain than in his last two starts where he gave up 17 hits and nine runs in 12 IP. Bochy, as usual, scowled, grimaced, and scratched his head, then said "no, not really." He went on to say that it's about "avoiding mistakes" and "that's the key for Matt." I have to agree. It looked like Cain could not throw his curveball and slider for strikes early on, relying entirely on the fastball and a few changeups, but then all four pitches started working and he dispatched the final seven guys effortlessly. Cain isn't deceptive and doesn't have the magic "swing-through" pitch that his counterparts Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez possess. Guys know what's coming--they've seen his repertoire and they know how they are going to get pitched. But they still make outs! They make outs because Matt can put the fastball anywhere, he can bring out the changeup in fastball counts, he can snap off killer breaking balls on the corners and out of the zone. Mike Krukow said he thinks Cain "understands the fastball and how to use it better than anyone in the league." A bit of hometown hyperbole, to be sure, but a fair point. Because he has such great command of his fastball and knows he can get strikes and induce weak contact with it, it sets up the other pitches and allows him to keep hitters off balance. Whatever it is that makes Matt Cain good may be beyond my limited understanding of major-league pitching, and may confound sabermetricians and the like, but it is sure great for San Francisco Giants fans. A big win after a tough and impressive road trip has the Giants back in first place. Special mention to Javier Lopez for an awesome 8th inning and to Cody Ross for smoking the ball all over the field. He's posting a 119 OPS+ right now!
p.s. I have a critical family situation happening these days and it will take me away from home and away from my favorite pastime of following the Giants. So you will likely not hear much from me in the next week, or perhaps longer. No worries--stuff needs doing and I'm ready to do it. I just may have to take a hiatus from RMC. My mate JC says he'll be chipping in more often and maybe the rest of the boys can help out, too. GO GIANTS!