Matt Cain had two outs in the 5th inning and a 1-0 lead when the Dodgers rookie pitcher Stephen Fife roped a two-strike double for his first major league hit. Two hits later it was 2-1 LA, one of those "what the hell happened?" moments. Cain was throwing strikes, good pitches with movement on the corners, but the hitters were making good swings and getting good results. The same thing happened in the 6th, three hits from the first four batters making it a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead. Matty could be seen dropping the f-bomb, a rare display from our stoic, well-mannered Southern boy. He had good reason. He was doing what he always does, sticking to his game plan and hitting his spots but getting burned nonetheless. In retrospect, it is easy to see that perhaps he didn't have his A-1 stuff, only two strikeouts tells me the "swing-through" pitches weren't there, and his velocity never got over 91 mph when we normally see him top out at a bit more than that. Matty went seven and yielded nine hits and three runs, a start most guys would be happy with, not dominating but effective, giving the team a chance to win. But Cain's bar is a little higher than most these days, and it is a real-live pennant race as well. This is a different Dodger team than the one the Giants whitewashed last time through.
The Giants put six guys on base in the first two innings and clearly had the rookie reeling, but they could not get the knockout blow. Fortunately Don Mattingly went to the bullpen a few too many times later in the contest and the guys were able to string together a rally and take Cain off the hook. Brandon Belt had three hits including the big one in the 8th to drive in two and tie it up. Ron, be sure to keep up the pressure on Belt. We all know what happens when we publicly rip a guy--he delivers the goods and makes us look bad! Readers, let me know who you'd like to see lambasted next and I'll pass out the writing assignments. It was nice to see Angel Pagan get a big hit as well. Like I've said before, this lineup needs everyone to contribute to be effective. The teams had identical lines through eight: 3 runs, 9 hits, 0 errors. Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined to terrify us in the 9th before tallying another zero, and it looked for all the world like another extra inning affair. Sure enough, the Giants obliged with a quick 1-2-3 and it was on to the 10th.
I was thinking the Giants really really really need some guys who can jack one late in a close game, but I've been thinking that for some time and thinking doesn't make it real. LA sent up Kemp, Ethier, and the newly-acquired Hanley Ramirez in their half of the inning and sure enough "HanRam" got the big hit to win it. Both Sergio Romo and I thought--as did most of the park--that the 3-2 pitch to Ethier was strike three/inning over, but alas it was ball four and a harbinger of doom. Romo, you may remember, was the one who gave up the long fly ball that Pagan turned into that great double play, so it's not like he's fooling everyone these days. Still, that's a formidable stretch of power hitters in the 3-4-5 spots, with 41 homers between them so far, that's with Kemp missing half a season. It's on, my friends. Stock up on the Maalox, it's going to be two more months of nail-biting agony. Great game, really, other than the result.
p.s. Giants pick up Marco Scutaro (for Charlie Culberson) from Colorado. I wanted him in Spring Training. He's a good, versatile ballplayer. That's it for MannyB, I assume. Still could use a fresh arm in the 'pen and it would be great to have some power off the bench but I don't see that fix coming any time soon.