Cain twirls one-hit shutout to down D-backs
Sandoval homers, notches three RBIs in Giants' victory
SAN FRANCISCO -- That wasn't a pitcher's mound Matt Cain occupied Friday night. That was a throne.Cain was king of all he surveyed, and since his focus was trained upon the Arizona Diamondbacks, they had no choice but to bow to him. The Giants right-hander recorded his second career one-hitter, a masterly 5-0 decision at AT&T Park. Despite losing his three previous starts, Cain thrived during that period, compiling a 3.05 ERA. This time, he outdid himself. He struck out a season-high nine and faced only two batters over the minimum. Only once in the first eight innings did he reach a three-ball count -- before he struck out Adam LaRoche to christen the fifth inning -- while throwing 83 strikes in 122 pitches. Cain dominated each D-back except for Mark Reynolds, who doubled off the right-field wall in the second inning and was hit by a pitch in the fifth. Nate Schierholtz made a gallant effort to catch Reynolds' drive, but the challenge was too great. "Honestly, I'm bummed I didn't come up with the ball," Schierholtz said. "It kept carrying and carrying and I hit the wall at the same time [as the ball]." By contrast, Cain never hit the wall, figuratively speaking. After plunking Reynolds, he finished the game by retiring 14 consecutive batters. Cain estimated that he shook off catcher Bengie Molina's signals only once or twice, reflecting their seamless collaboration. "I felt good from the beginning," said Cain (3-4), whose fourth career shutout trimmed his ERA to 2.50 and lowered his WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) to 1.01, fourth-best in the National League. "I just tried not to think about a lot. I just let Bengie call the game and stayed in a good rhythm." Indeed, Cain allowed nothing to disrupt his groove. Not the D-backs, who began the game leading the NL in scoring and tied for first in home runs. "It's a group of guys who definitely can beat you with the long ball, so you try to take some of the pop out of their bats and get them to swing early so you can't get them in their counts," Cain said. Not Arizona's array of left-handed hitters, consisting of Kelly Johnson (12 homers entering the game), Stephen Drew (.310 batting average) and LaRoche (.513 slugging percentage). They went 0-for-11 off Cain, who has limited lefties to a .161 average this year. "I tried to keep them honest a little bit [by throwing] inside and make them use the big part of the field to left," Cain said. "Their lefties can definitely drive the ball." And not the leather-lunged fan who hollered at Cain as he stood in the on-deck circle midway through the game to inform him that he had a one-hitter going.
"He just kind of threw it out there," said Cain, who threw his other one-hitter on May 21, 2006, at Oakland.Often a victim of poor run support, Cain received ample assistance while pitching a second straight complete game for the first time in his career. Pablo Sandoval drove in three runs, concluding his evening with an impressive homer to center field leading off the eighth inning against Chad Qualls. It ended Sandoval's drought of 124 at-bats without a homer. "For me, today, it was a new season," Sandoval said, explaining that he has redoubled his efforts to remain patient at the plate. The rest of the top of the order contributed nicely. Andres Torres doubled, stole his team-high seventh base and scored twice. Freddy Sanchez rapped two hits; the first drove in a first-inning run and the next set up Sandoval's third-inning sacrifice fly. The Giants owned a 3-0 lead by the fifth inning, which might not sound like much but, for them, was an unusual bulge. "We needed to get some runs early and those guys did it," Cain said. "In almost every inning, we were doing something to get some guys stirred up." Sanchez again played captivating defense at second base, backhanding Johnson's tricky one-hop smash to start the game and assisting on four other putouts. "He just fires up everybody," Cain said. "When guys start making good plays early, it rubs off on everybody." But, as Cain demonstrated, there's not much in baseball that can top a commanding presence on the mound.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.