On any day where the Giants’ offense does reasonably well, usually there’s a hitter of the game or two to talk about – the guy who got on base 4 times, the guy who hit an RBI single at just the right time, the guy who got a splash homer if the Giants ever manage to do that again, and so on. Today was weird. Everyone contributed, getting on base and hitting with runners in scoring position. I think the entire starting lineup besides Cain scored at least once. Nobody really had a monster game, but the Giants combined into a Voltron of competence, and it turns out that when everyone in your lineup hits a baseball pretty good, the results are kinda awesome.
So let’s talk about Matt Cain. Going into this start, Cain’s numbers since El Perfecto were not Cain-like. 6.3 innings per start, which is good; 46 K/16 BB, which is less good but actually right in line with his career numbers pre-2012; and a .790 OPS against and 4.4 ERA, which is pretty crappy. 10 dingers was the weird, scary key here. Between his pitching and the Giants’ hitting in the mid-2000s, it took Matt Cain two full seasons in MLB before he understood what a home run was. Suddenly he’s giving them up like Armando Benitez in Coors Field on the moon. Has Matt Cain’s dinger-suppression luck run out? you had to ask yourself.
Except you didn’t have to ask yourself that, because it was nine starts, and that’s dumb, and shame on you for doubting Matt Cain. He wasn’t mind-blowing tonight, but he was very good; 7.1 innings, 6 Ks to 1 BB, two runs, and a whole bunch of long fly balls that, as we are accustomed to, meandered towards the warning track and were then knocked down by the flock of AT&T-dwelling seagulls that Cain spends his offseason patiently training. One home run was hit, but it was in the 8th inning with the bases empty. Pitching to the score, baby.
So Matt Cain’s fine. I mean, it was the Rockies, but still — a standard-issue, reasonably dominant start was just what Cain needed for all of us to get the monkeys off our backs. He’s had a down stretch with some fluky dinger luck. He may not be as good as he was in the first half, but that’s because he had the temerity to be frigging unbelievable; up to and including the perfect game, he struck out six batters for every walk and held opponents to a .192/.233/.322 batting line. When you’ve been turning every hitter you face into Jeff Mathis with less walks, you’re bound to disappoint someone eventually.
But not today. The Giants lavished an almost embarrassing amount of praise on Cain last night, and today he went out there and was that guy. Cool.
Anyway, in between Cain doing Cain things, the offense was good. Hunter Pence got a big hit; once Pablo’s back he’ll probably get a day, and eventually break out of his slump. It must be hard to coach a hitter whose mechanics were developed by this guy. Angel Pagan’s still good. Joaquin Arias might not be totally embarrassing to have on a playoff-stretch roster. Ryan Theriot! Marco Scutaro! Professional hitters who go out there and grind it out and give you a good at-bat, I’m told by experts, and those were some pretty-good at-bats. No complaints.
Oh yeah. That other guy. Buster Posey went 2 for 4 with a dinger and a walk. He is now batting .330/.401/.546 for the season, and has a real chance at finishing the year with 100+ RBIs, which despite its complete lack of predictive value, is cool. Really cool. A Giant hasn’t done that since 2004; a Giant not named Barry Bonds hasn’t done that since 2002. It means dudes are scoring runs. More important stats tell us why and how those dudes are scoring runs, and which dudes are actually responsible for the scoring of those runs, but having someone on your team with 100 RBIs is nice. I hope the Giants can lock Buster up to a long-term deal before his promotion to the Olympian League. (Not the Olympics, but the actual baseball league of the Greek Gods, where he will take his place in the pantheon as the God of Not Having It Under Any Circumstances.)
Last thing. Brad Penny, as a Giant, has pitched 19 innings in 14 appearances, and surrendered baserunners in all but two of those appearances. He has a 1.67 K/BB and a 4.64 FIP, and he labors in just about every outing. He’s not good. He’s not even the acceptable kind of bad that Guillermo Mota was. He’s just a dude who can’t pitch a baseball too good anymore. It’d be nice if he was, but barring that unlikely eventuality, we’re probably reduced to hoping that he opens one of those cans of compressed bad all at once, preferably during a garbage-time appearance, and convinces even noted veteranophile Bruce Bochy that this guy probably shouldn’t be trusted.
But other than that, pretty pleasing. I’m not even that angry that Brett Pill started for some reason. He got two hits and he seems like a nice guy, and I’m sure it was just to give Belt a day. He’ll be right back in there full-time. Right? You know what, don’t answer that question. Let’s go root for the Marlins to get us back into first place. They owe us. They broke Buster. But he’s fixed all better now.