I’ve seen this game a few times. Nay, I’ve seen this game a few hundred times. Matt Cain pitches great and yet somehow comes away without the “W”. If you went to Matt Cain University, and you took the class “Matt Cain 101,” today’s game would probably be on your syllabus for week two. This wasn’t your standard “Cain pitches great, Giants swing the bat like a bunch of nincompoops” game. It was your standard “Cain pitches great, Giants relievers squander win” game. The differences are subtle. The result is maddeningly the same.
The good news is that Cain is still very good and was on his game today — mixing in all of his pitches and pitching like the top of the rotation starter that we’ve come to love. When he can spot his pitches, it’s hard to imagine a pitcher that’s more surgical than Matt Cain. Fastball to nip the outside corner; changeup that floats down and away; the back-foot breaking pitch. Surgical stuff, right there.
The other good news is that with 10 strikeouts in the game, Cain’s strikeouts-per-nine (K/9) ratio is currently at 8.00. Cain hasn’t posted a higher K/9 rate since his 2006 season when he struck out 8.45 batters per nine. I’m not saying that Cain is going to get his old strikeout totals back — today’s Cain is clearly better than the 2006 version — but I think he could surprise some people this year. In each start this year he’s seemed to have most, if not all, of his pitches working for him on the mound.
Other thoughts from today’s game:
* Gillaspie smoked a RBI double in the first inning for his only hit of the game. It wasn’t a hit that I’ll be telling my grandkids about some day, but it was nice to see Gillaspie rope something off the right field wall. For most of the game, Gillaspie made pretty good contact, spraying the ball to all fields. His defense was still shaky. He was charged with an error in the 9th when he couldn’t make a play on a Cory Hart smash that he deflected awkwardly off his glove. Gillaspie has his warts and he’s not the perfect solution, but he’s clearly the starting third baseman for now.
* Sergio Romo’s slider is still a thing of pure nastiness. Take a look-see:
Never gets old.
* Brandon Belt’s OBP is currently .381. That’s 11 points higher than his SLG (.370). Belt’s in this weird place right now where he’s hitting singles and walking a lot, but he’s not hitting for much power. I think he’ll eventually start to drive the ball more. It’s hard to argue with a .381 OBP and the improved infield defense that comes with Belt. Also, no strikeouts in today’s game. Probably more important, Belt put himself in great hitter’s counts all day. It seemed like every time he was at the plate, he was up 2-0.