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04/10/07 2:25 AM ET
Cain dazzles, but still takes loss
Struggling Giants offense can't back hurler's near no-hitter
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Giants general manager Brian Sabean cited "conventional wisdom" in stating that he typically would wait 25 to 30 games before making some tough evaluations about the ballclub. After watching the Giants muster five hits and waste another of Matt Cain's flirtations with a no-hitter in a 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres, Sabean might feel compelled to accelerate his timetable. At 1-6, the Giants have matched the worst seven-game start in franchise history since the club moved to San Francisco in 1958 -- a nadir previously reached in 1967 and 1980. Another defeat Tuesday would equal the Giants' 1-7 mark posted in 1967. San Francisco's offense continued slumping before 31,388 PETCO Park patrons. The Giants have scored 14 runs this season, an average of two per game, and already have been shut out twice. As Sabean indicated, the Giants' problems at the plate are manifold. "We're having a hard time with runners in scoring position; we're having a hard time with nobody on and nobody out getting an inning going," Sabean said. True to form, the Giants wasted leadoff doubles by Randy Winn in the third inning and Bengie Molina in the seventh off Padres starter Chris Young (1-0), who lasted seven innings. Molina doubled again off Trevor Hoffman with two outs in the ninth, but the all-time saves leader struck out Pedro Feliz to end the game. That extended the San Diego bullpen's season-opening scoreless-innings streak to 20 2/3. Coincidentally, Sabean was asked about the struggling Feliz (.208) about four hours earlier. "You can't pick on Pedro," Sabean said. "You could pick on a lot of people if you want." Manager Bruce Bochy chose to focus on the Giants' inability to build upon their meager offense. "We didn't execute well," he said after his club's batting average with runners in scoring position fell to .195 (8-for-41). "We had our chances and didn't move some runners when we needed to." The Giants couldn't score Winn from third base with one out as Dave Roberts (.208) struck out and Omar Vizquel (.160) flied out. Roberts' at-bat was especially galling to the Giants; he ducked away from a high-and-inside two-strike pitch but was deemed to have foul-tipped off the knob of his bat. "It could have gone either way," Roberts said of umpire Rob Drake's call. "I was so into the at-bat." The Giants also couldn't advance Molina from second base in the seventh inning. Feliz, the next batter, recorded a wholly unproductive out by grounding to shortstop before Winn and Cain struck out. "It's more magnified when you're not swinging the bats well," Roberts said of the Giants' inability to follow the fundamentals. "You have to take advantage of any opportunity you do get." The Padres succeeded in this endeavor, explaining why the Giants absorbed their first defeat while limiting an opponent to two hits since June 12, 1976, when they lost 3-1 to the New York Mets behind John D'Acquisto. After walking the bases loaded with two outs in the first inning, Cain escaped that jam and proceeded to resume his usual domination of the Padres, against whom he was 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA entering the game. Although Cain needed help from Roberts, who made a circus catch in center field on Brian Giles' warning-track fly to end the fifth inning, the right-hander retired 15 of 17 batters from the second through sixth innings. Cain, who lost a no-hitter after 7 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels last June 19, was only vaguely aware of his bid for baseball immortality. "Somebody [in the stands] might have yelled something in the fifth or the sixth, but that's not the big deal," he said. "I was worried about keeping guys off base." Then Khalil Greene doubled to lead off the seventh inning on Cain's 100th pitch, a 1-0 slider. After Cain walked Russell Branyan, Jose Cruz Jr. bunted the runners ahead before pinch-hitter Geoff Blum's sacrifice fly sent home Greene. A grim Molina tried to salvage some hope. "I think we have to tell every pitcher to keep throwing these games, because it's going to change," he insisted. "As soon as the offense comes [around], we're going to win a lot of games. Hopefully soon."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.