Country music blaring, Matt Cain sauntered to the mound for his 326th start in a San Francisco Giants uniform, two shy of seventh and four off sixth on the team’s all-time list behind Freddie Fitzsimmons and Hal Schumacher.
These kind of benchmarks are a reminder that we’ve reached the hard part of this season, perhaps one that we’ve parked in the back of our brains: Cain could be pitching the final half, and at any point his last start, of his career as a Giant.
The longest-tenured Giant has seen the park’s dark days of the mid-2000s, paced the team to its championship glory and fell into DL limbo, flashing disastrous starts between glimpses of past dominance. It’s the kind of career that has kept Giants fans frustrated, yet unfailingly supportive as he grinded out the final years of his eight-year, near-$140 million contract.
One major element of the ‘good years’ — when Cain helped deliver championships — was the team’s ability to capitalize on lucky breaks all while making near impossible for the other team to sniff any sort of similar opportunity.
Paired with Tuesday night’s low-scoring, extra-inning walk-off, Wednesday afternoon’s 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians gave us a taste of the team’s winning concoction, said Bruce Bochy:
“These last two games where we had the kind of magic we used to have, it was great to re-create that.”
It started with Cain’s six solid innings and ended with Buster Posey’s pinch hit, game-winning double in a three-run eighth inning. The luck element came when the Brandons reached base on a walk (Belt) and single (Crawford) and Conor Gillaspie put a run on the board with ground ball that escaped through first baseman Carlos Santana‘s legs. Posey came in to pinch hit after Nick Hundley struck out with runners on the corners and launched a 3-2 slider deep to the left field corner.
Elephant in the room: Bochy addressed the media from a Game of Thrones throne after the win because Thursday night’s game is GoT night. King Bochy’s suffered through the worst season of his Giants tenure thus far, so the metaphor didn’t pass him by:
“The only thing about sitting in this chair is, I know every king that sits in this chair usually gets killed off.”
The team’s last two wins could be a metaphor, too, for why Bochy’s reign is safe and historic. If the Giants want to turn this thing around, Bochy has said time after time, it’ll take some re-creation of the past magic that set the bar so high:
“We’re not far from getting to who we are.”
That’s why the fast-approaching trade deadline looks fuzzy. The elements for the magic this team won on is there, but responsibility reigns stronger. The front office has been candid about the team’s intent to go big, but Cain said he knows this team thinks they can work together in the long run:
“We’ve got a team with talent and we think we can win.”
Cain looked due for a classic “Caining,” too, departing quietly with a one-run deficit following an effortless 3-6-1 double play and his sixth strikeout, just 79 pitches in.
A pair of one-out walks buried Cain out of a win. Despite Francisco Lindor‘s fly out on a 3-0 pitch, Michael Brantley tied the game and Jose Ramierez cleared the bases with a single, putting the Indians up 3-1 in the third inning.
Steven Okert gave up what looked like a cushion run for the Indians in the eighth, but the Giants had a lucky rally in them.
“That’s not how we drew it up, Ramirez with bases loaded, but he just missed.”
The Giants welcome the San Diego Padres for a four-game series, which will be a good a time as any to gain some leverage against them in the quest for fourth place. Madison Bumgarner will get his first home start since April against Jhoulys Chacin.