Matt Cain wasn't pretty, but he was reasonably effective, and I've learned not to scoff at the "Quality Start" statistic. Stringing together quality starts is what usually leads to winning baseball. The Giants though, can't seem to get clutch hits. Today they had a runner at third with one out and failed to score him--that would have tied the game in the 7th. They had a runner at third in the 8th with only one out, but only for a brief moment, as Marco Scutaro was thrown out at second after a questionable decision to advance. In light of Joaquin Arias' double play grounder the inning before, I can understand the desire to have runners on second and third rather than first and second. But it was one of those situations that required the runner to be absolutely sure of not getting thrown out. In fact, he was thrown out, and that meant Buster Posey (2-for-16 in the series) had to get a hit to tie the game, which he did not. Thus the Giants failed to give themselves a chance to win. Jean Machi collapsed completely in the 9th, giving up four runs and ending any hope of a comeback.
Mostly, though, this game was about another Marlins starter befuddling the lineup. We had Jacob Turner one night and Tom Koehler another, and today we got the overpowering Nathan Eovaldi. The Giants were averaging over four runs per game coming in to this series, but they could only manage EIGHT runs total against the vaunted Miami pitching staff. Only Ricky Nolasco was ordinary, and despite giving up nine hits the Giants could not finish him off and wound up losing. Even with Barry Zito throwing a gem yesterday, the Giants still had to resort to extra-inning heroics to win. This was a winnable game and a winnable series, but collapses from the bullpen and feeble efforts from the hitters meant another lost weekend.
Matt Cain continues to give up home runs. Today Justin Ruggiano murdered the second pitch of the game and put the Giants in a hole they never came back from. Cain has allowed 16 dingers in 16 starts. Before this year, he had allowed 129 homers in 235 starts. In 2011 he only allowed nine in his 33 starts, an anomalously low number considering that all his other seasons were between 14 and 22. So, is 2013 just an anomaly, an extreme case of bad luck, much like 2011 being, perhaps, an extreme case of good luck? Is the swing just normal variation? Or is something wrong? If so, what? His hit rate of 7.4/9 is close to his career norm (7.5), as is his walk rate of 2.7/9 (3.1), and strikeout rate of 8.3/9 (7.5). His BABIP of .249 is right there (.263), and his 37.0% ground ball rate (37.2) and 40.8% fly ball rate (43.7) aren't much different. Even his xFIP (3.82) is the same as last season's, suggesting that his expected runs allowed should be close to the same. Alas, he's allowing a home run on 14% of his fly balls, about twice his career rate of 7.1% (it was 8.4% last season and 3.7% in 2011). What's the deal? How can a guy do just about everything else the same and have one thing be completely out of whack? I tell ya, I just don't know, but it ain't no fun to watch.
Giants are firing on only one cylinder at a time these days, and it's hard to take. The parts and pieces are all there, despite the injuries, but they can't seem to get them coordinated and working in a mutually supporting way.
Let's go, Giants. Let's get some goddamn wins!