Matt Cain retired the first twelve Rockies he faced. It was his own error in the 5th on a comebacker by Troy Tulowitzki that gave Colorado their first baserunner. A strikeout, a walk and two more strikeouts ended the "threat" and Matt retired another seven batters after that before giving up an infield single to Jay Payton with one out in the 8th inning. Thus ended the no-hit bid. Cain then struck out Miguel Olivo, but pinch-hitter Melvin Mora blasted a two-strike fastball into center field to ruin the shutout and keep the game agonizingly close. Cain then struck out Eric Young to end the inning. Bruce Bochy sent Cain out in the top of the 9th to hit for himself, and that meant he would get a shot at the heart of the Rockies order in the bottom of the inning. True to form, he got leadoff hitter Jonathan Herrera on a grounder. Cain retired the first hitter in every inning but one. Carlos Gonzalez added to the drama by poking a single into right field on a 1-1 pitch. Troy Tulowitzki, last night's hero and September's hottest hitter in the majors, made the second out on routine infield pop-up. Cain then struck out Jason Giambi to end it, and the Giants had a massive win.
Matt Cain throws a three-hitter for his fourth complete game of the season, his first since shutting out the Reds on June 8th. He gets a Game Score of 80 for his outstanding effort, but that number hardly tells the story. He dominated a potent Rockies lineup in Coors Field after they pounded out ten runs the previous game. He shut down a team that was fighting for survival, a team on the brink of elimination, never giving them a chance to mount a serious threat. He was poised, confident, and in control the whole way. It was a first-class effort in a huge game, surely the most important of his young career. This Saturday's start against the Padres might turn out to be even more crucial, but that takes nothing away from today's sensational performance.
Cain threw 113 pitches to 32 batters, coaxing 11 ground outs and 8 fly outs. He struck out 8, all in the last 4 innings, yielding only one walk. You can't argue with a line like that!
I would be remiss not to mention Freddy Sanchez***, who hit a huge homer in the 1st inning today, if only because I've abused him quite a bit here at RMC. With his superb fielding, all he has to do is be a league-average hitter to be valuable, and a .296/.345/.403 line rates a wRC+ of 103, which ain't bad. Keep it up! Fortunately, the Giants added two more runs to Sanchez' two-run HR and that was the margin of victory (nice to see Cody Ross get another big hit). Like Lincecum's game on Friday night, the Giants did just enough with the bats not to waste the great start.
Giants head home with six to play. This is it!!
p.s. Giants reclaim 1st place after Reds crush Padres in San Diego!
p.p.s Cain's September: 37 IP, 20 H, 9 ER, 4 HR, 4 BB, 28 K, 135 TBF. Also, 219-1/3 IP is a career high.
***FSanchez since August 1st is .337/.379/.500 making Sabean look like a genius (h/t Baseball Musings) and me look like a fool. I never mind being wrong if it means the Giants are winning. Giants had 88 wins last season, today was win number 88.