Fortunate circumstances allowed me to take a road trip to the Bay and meet Zo at the Ballpark today. The Mystic One scored some simply outstanding seats (sec 108 row 31) and we got an up-close-and-personal look at Matt Cain's dominant start against Washington. The big fella was absolutely poppin' the glove with the heater and working the corners with his usual aplomb, befuddling the Nationals and leading the Giants to a 3-1 win. What a treat! Matty was as good as he can be and added an RBI double as well. I was particularly impressed by the three strikeouts of Michael Morse who is running out a .301/.343/.518 line these days and also had a hit, a stolen base, and scored his team's only run. Imagine what the Giants lineup could do with that guy! Speaking of the Giants lineup, I got damn discouraged by the feeble display of quick outs against Yunesky Maya who threw only 67 pitches in his six innings of four-hit ball. Yikes! Thank goodness their bullpen has some weaknesses or we might still be there in a 1-1 deadlock. Brandon Crawford continues to impress with the glove and the bat. Miguel Tejada is going to have to sit when Pablo Sandoval comes back. Even if the kid starts hitting like a minor-leaguer I don't think the Giants can afford to give up his defense. He made a great stop to save a run in the 7th and even Bochy acknowledged that the team hasn't seen that kind of range and skill at shortstop in some time.
Cain had a season-high 11 strikeouts, walked one, and gave up only a bunt single in the first five innings. He threw his breaking pitches for strikes all day long and got some pretty swing-throughs with the changeup as well. He got two strikeouts in the 9th including one to end the game. Second baseman Danny Espinosa was actually hit by the last pitch but the umpire correctly ruled that he had swung at it and thus it was strike three. (I thought he'd fouled it off.) The complete game was the 13th of his career and his first of 2011. Cain gave credit to his catcher, as he always does, and Eli Whiteside did indeed have a great game with two big hits, an RBI, and a run scored.
Dusty Baker and the defending NL Central champs come to town for four games. The Reds lead the league with 312 runs scored but have struggled to find consistent pitching, allowing 294, the third-worst (Astros and Cubs are both over 300). I complain a lot about the Giants offense, and it will have to get better if they expect to win down the stretch, but I'd rather have that problem than Cincinnati's. You can usually find a bat or two to help out in crunch time, last season is proof of that. But building and maintaining a great pitching staff is the hardest thing to do in the game, and the Giants are certainly blessed with an array of tremendous arms. Matt Cain may not get the headlines, but he's aces in my book, and Giants fans certainly know what a valuable player he is.