Cain emerges from shadows of other aces
With spotless playoff ERA, Giants righty proves he belongs
SAN FRANCISCO -- First, it was all about Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum. Then it was Cliff Lee and Lincecum.
But out from the shadows of this magnificent postseason comes Matthew Thomas Cain, and the others are going to have to step aside. For now.
Call the masterful San Francisco Giants right-handed pitcher Cain and Able. If that doesn't fit, how about Houdini?
The thing is, Cain has been able to completely shut down the opposition across three postseason starts in which he has faced Atlanta, Philadelphia and now Texas.
Even when he gets himself in a jam, Cain wiggles out with such adroitness that he reminds me of ... well, Harry Houdini.
The underdog Giants clobbered the Rangers, 9-0, on Thursday night at AT&T Park to take an unexpected 2-0 lead in the World Series to Texas, where baseball's showcase resumes on Saturday night at 6:30 ET.
After stunning the favored Rangers and Lee, 11-7, in Wednesday's opener, the Giants' typically anemic hunt-and-peck offense erupted once again.
But really, had it not been for a seven-run uprising in the eighth, when the Giants were walking a 2-0 tightrope, the game was a tense duel between Cain and C.J. Wilson. In fact, it remained scoreless through the first four innings -- the first time no runs had been scored in the first four frames of a World Series contest since Game 4 of the 2005 Classic between the White Sox and Astros.
Edgar Renteria's home run with one out in the fifth gave the Giants a 1-0 lead, and San Francisco manufactured an insurance run with a walk, an infield out and Juan Uribe's single in the seventh.
Renteria's blast was all Cain needed. When he left with two outs and a runner on second in the eighth, the right-hander had allowed just four hits.
In three postseason starts this October -- across 21 1/3 innings -- Cain has yet to allow an earned run.
The Rangers, whose pedigree is much more impressive than that of the Giants when it comes to scoring runs, were 0-for-7 against Cain with runners in scoring position on Thursday night. In his three postseason starts (two wins and a no-decision), he's held batters to an .067 batting average (1-for-15) with runners in scoring position.
That doesn't come as a surprise, because during the last two seasons, batters are hitting just .193 with runners in scoring position against Cain.
Cain continues to cruise
To say that Cain was superb on Thursday is an understatement. He retired the first seven batters in order and 12 of the first 13, Mitch Moreland's third-inning single the only blemish.
That brings us to the turning point.
Ian Kinsler crushed an 0-2 fastball to the wall above the 399-foot sign in dead center field, what appeared to be a certain home run.
But I firmly believe the stars are aligned for the Giants this postseason. The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back onto the field for a double. Cain then got the next three outs and jogged off the mound, the game still scoreless.
"I thought it was a home run," Cain said. "I saw it hit and I thought it hit something behind the wall, so I cashed it in as one run."
The Giants have been beneficiaries of good bounces all postseason.
"Then I saw that [center fielder Andres] Torres had thrown the ball in and [Kinsler] was standing on the second base," Cain added. "From there, I just said, 'Hey, I've got to keep that guy there, and we'll just get the next guy and see how it works out.'"
It worked out just fine for Cain and was a huge turning point in Game 2.
With Wilson virtually matching Cain's effort, one run easily could have decided the game and given the Rangers momentum.
"It was a good break for us," said Giants manger Bruce Bochy. "It hit on the top of the wall -- I've never seen that here before -- and Matt did a great job of not letting [Kinsler] score. He got some big outs against some tough hitters. We definitely got a break there."
When you dissect the first two games of this Series, the fact Giants pitchers have been able to limit American League Championship Series MVP Josh Hamilton to just one single in eight at-bats is a huge reason the Rangers are winless entering Game 3.
"We've been lucky enough to keep him out of situations where we didn't have to [intentionally] walk him," said Cain.
It's unfair to ignore the performances of Lincecum. He won the first National League Championship Series game over Halladay of the Phillies and was the winner on Wednesday night over Lee, who entered the game 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his postseason career.
Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and '09, and he gets most of the notoriety on the Giants. But along comes Cain.
And Bochy couldn't be happier.
"I've said this before," said Bochy. "He's probably been the most consistent pitcher, really, from Day 1. He's such a bulldog out there. All you have to do is look at what he's done in this postseason. It's impressive how he's pitched and hasn't allowed a run.
"This was a big game. He's taken charge, and he's the guy we want out there in a big game."
And no longer is Matt Cain in the shadows of Halladay, Lincecum, Lee, et al.
He's moved front and center on baseball's biggest stage and deserves it.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.