NLDS Game One Preview: In Matt Cain We Trust

The Matt Cain. (Flickr/rocor)

The former THIRD STARTER — AT BEST! takes the mound tonight in game one of the NLDS.

It’s the year of the Matt Cain, it seems. From emerging as more than the shadow of the middle of the rotation guy he was for the past few years to a bonafide front end of the rotation guy, the 2012 Giants have had a remarkable season with Cain being one of the dominant figures in their oft-madness ensuing narrative.

Matt Cain has been a decent pitcher. He may not have gotten off to the start Tim Lincecum had, but my goodness, he was good. FIP hated him, but fans surely didn’t.

Now, it’s October again and the Giants are back in the playoffs. It’s not Lincecum starting the series off — it’s Matt Cain.

If someone had said that this would be the way the playoffs begin back in the offseason, it would’ve been laughed at. Matt Cain? Starting over Tim Lincecum? Aha. Ahahaha! But now, it’s just the most logical decision.

From escaping the shadows and lurking behind reporters, Matt Cain has come into his own. Striking out batter after batter, throwing a perfect game, being reliable, and also transforming and becoming a horse, it seemed like Cain was unstoppable this season.

To those new to the Giants or the national attention to Cain, this might seem like it’s surprising. To those who’ve been around for a while, you could say it’s a long time coming.

Cain began the season with signing a contract extension — $127.5 million until 2017 with an option for 2018. Big contracts like those can always seem risky, especially after Barry Zito. But with Cain, not so much.

Here is a guy who could give you a solid amount of innings without giving up a lot of runs. The defense and the offense sometimes (or mostly) failed him, but he was solid. It led to the term “Caining” or “being Cained.” Some didn’t think he was that great because the Giants used to lose a lot of his starts, even though he likely pitched a gem.

So when the season started and Matt Cain nearly threw a perfect game at the Giants’ home opener, it was a sign of great things to come. Never mind his off-start to begin the season, Cain was bringing it.

And he did — it was one great start after another and then the perfect game midway through June, followed up with the All-Star Game and some more solid starts.

After all of that, it’s no surprise that Cain is starting game one. He rightfully earned the role and everyone recognizes it. And if they don’t, they should.

In the adrenaline rush of “Oh my goodness, it’s the playoffs — THE PLAYOFFS!” and whatever the narrative decides to be today, it’s a calming reminder for fans that Matt Cain exists.

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