Matt Cain was brilliant through eight innings, giving up only three hits, striking out eight, and issuing only one walk. In the 9th, leadoff hitter David Eckstein pounded out a single and Ryan Ludwick blasted one over the CF wall, ending Cain's night. It took 117 pitches and 30 batters for Matt to get his first win of the season against the Padres. Lifetime, he's 5-8 in 21 starts. Despite the 9th inning hiccup, it was an outstanding performance by the big fella from Tennessee. He had good velocity, hitting 94-95 mph late in the game, as well as good command of the off-speed stuff, and racked up his 11th victory with a Game Score of 67. I particularly enjoyed the three-pitch "grab some pine, meat" whiffing of the mighty Adrian Gonzalez in the 6th after a two-out double by the aforementioned Ludwick. That guy, I fear, is going to be a tough out this weekend.
Tonight was a true team effort though, as the boys broke out the big bats and slammed four homers and plated seven runs! And this in Petco Park, where long balls die and dreams of long balls die harder. And against the Padres, whose pitching staff has been ridiculous all year. The Giants needed to jump on Jon Garland early, and they did, getting a leadoff triple from struggling Andres Torres. Freddy Sanchez hit a comebacker that somehow scooted past Garland it was 1-0 in the 1st and you got the feeling the breaks would finally come for the Giants. Aubrey Huff hit a beautiful bomb to right-center in the 3rd to make it 3-0, and Juan Uribe answered Will Venable's solo shot with a big blast in the 4th to make it 4-1. Buster Posey hit an upper-deck moonshot in the 5th, and Pat Burrell capped the scoring with absurd golf shot down the LF line that seemed to still be going up when it hit the bricks. It was a thunderous display by the Giants, the first time they had ever hit four homers at Petco. With Cain dealing aces, it was a huge victory in a crucial series.
The Padres have had the Giants number both this year and last. They cobble together runs from Hairston Bros. pocket lint and David Eckstein gum wrappers. They run really fast and catch everything. They shorten games to 6 innings with impossible relief pitching. And they have Adrian Gonzalez. Writing it that way, it just doesn't seem like enough, but they nonetheless sit in 1st place and have to be beaten. Tonight was a fine example of how that might be done. I don't expect four tape-measure rockets every night, especially against the likes of Clayton Richard and Mat Latos, but I think some measure of offense will be a big help. I worry about Torres' slump, and Sandoval looks terrible, and those two will need to hit for us to win. But that's not a problem until tomorrow. For now, we'll savor tonight's terrific win.
update 0646 Friday: There's a nice piece about Mike Matheny on The Hardball Times (h/t Baseball Musings). It's easy to forget how beat up these guys get over the course of a career. Watching Buster Posey take foul balls off his mask every night--like every other catcher--gives me the hee-bee jee-bees. He's a sublimely graceful ballplayer, and seems to do everything well and with such apparent ease, it would be a shame if catching took its toll on him like it did Matheny. A great-hitting catcher like Joe Torre extended his career by playing both 1st and 3rd, something Posey could do effortlessly. Nothing to do with the 2010 pennant race, of course, but something to think about for the future.