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09/12/08 2:45 AM ET
Cain struggles as streak ends at five
Giants righty endures shortest start of the season in rout
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- PETCO Park has bordered on being hallowed ground for Matt Cain. On Thursday night, however, he lacked the power that he had wielded there -- providing an all-too-fitting end to his bid for a winning season. Dominant against the Padres in general and at San Diego in particular throughout his career, Cain was stunningly ineffective in the Giants' 11-3 loss that ended their five-game winning streak. The right-hander allowed six runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since lasting 2 2/3 innings and surrendering six runs and five hits on Sept. 3, 2007, at Colorado. "I'm embarrassed in how I pitched and embarrassed for the team," Cain said. "I feel like I let them down, [given] the things we've been doing the past week." Cain looked vulnerable immediately, as he yielded five runs and six hits in the first inning. That contrasted sharply with his six previous outings at PETCO, where he had recorded a 1.63 ERA and permitted the Padres to hit a mere .127. In 14 starts against San Diego overall, Cain owned a 2.44 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 58 hits allowed in 92 1/3 innings. Other numbers could be more relevant. Cain entered the game having thrown 3,238 pitches, most in the National League (just ahead of teammate Tim Lincecum's 3,227) and fourth in the Majors. Only Milwaukee's CC Sabathia (3,382 in a season that began with Cleveland) and Toronto's A.J. Burnett (3,310) and Roy Halladay (3,242) had heaved more baseballs than Cain. Cain is 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and 33 hits allowed in 21 innings over his last four starts. In six starts before that, he was 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 34 hits allowed in 44 1/3 innings. But the 23-year-old insisted that the long season has not eroded him physically. "I feel fine, I feel healthy and I'm not making pitches," Cain said. "I'm leaving balls over the plate, and it's costing me. I'm not missing bats right now, and these guys came out swinging hot." But Giants manager Bruce Bochy was willing to consider that Cain could be at least mildly fatigued. "It's that time of year," Bochy said. "Every pitcher goes through it. ... You have to pitch in situations where you don't have your best stuff." Cain (8-12) was fully aware that, with three projected starts remaining, winning this game represented his last chance to finish above .500. Instead, he's bound for his second losing season in a row. "I knew that I had four left in me and had a chance to get above .500," Cain said. "Now I have to think that I have three left, and I have to make these next three good. You can't shut down a season after something like this." The opener of the Giants' road trip, however, was essentially over after the first inning. Flashing some of the magic they displayed during their winning streak, San Francisco grabbed a fleeting 1-0 lead in its half of the first on singles by Nate Schierholtz, Pablo Sandoval and Rich Aurilia off Padres starter Josh Geer (2-0). Then Cain allowed four runs while throwing his first 13 pitches as Will Venable doubled, Luis Rodriguez tapped a bunt single, Brian Giles lined an RBI single and Adrian Gonzalez hit his first of two home runs. Two outs later, Nick Hundley singled and Matt Antonelli doubled for his first Major League RBI. Preying upon Cain further, Drew Macias homered with one out in the third inning for his first Major League hit. The rest of the evening became a fountain of trivia. Conor Gillaspie, the first player from this year's Draft to reach the Major Leagues, pinch-hit in the eighth inning and grounded out to shortstop in his first big league at-bat.
"I'm sure he was a little nervous," Bochy said.But Gillaspie, 21, sounded anything but nervous after his three-pitch at-bat against sidearmer Cla Meredith. "Hopefully, they throw me in there the next couple of weeks and, shoot, maybe, even start a couple of games," said Gillaspie, who received the lineup card as a memento. "Honestly, I think I can play as good as any of these guys up here. That's why I'm here." Not only did Gonzalez homer again leading off the seventh inning against Pat Misch, but his brother, Edgar, delivered a pinch-hit homer off Kevin Correia in the eighth. The Gonzalezes thus became the first pair of brothers to homer in the same game since Jose and Bengie Molina, now with the Giants, did so on July 31, 2005.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.