Only the Giants futile offense can stop Matt Cain.
Cain pitched a typical Cain game last night, allowing just two runs and seven total base runners, while striking out four and inducing 11 fly-outs in eight innings of solid work.
He did hang a curve-ball to Giancarlo Stanton, who blasted it down the left-field line for what turned out to be the game-winning home-run. He also had two other potential home-runs knocked down by the friendly confines of his home park.
Cain is a fly-ball pitcher without elite stuff. His fastball topped out at 93 Miles Per Hour (MPH) last night, averaging less than 91 MPH. His curve-ball is just an average pitch, something to steal strikes with early in the count, but not something to end an at-bat with.
Yet even though his fastball has average velocity, it plays up because he hides it well and deceives hitters with his high three-quarters release, leading to a lot of lazy fly-balls and pop-ups. His slider and change-up are above average pitches that can miss bats, giving him a four-pitch repertoire that he has excellent command and control of.
If he played in the American League East in a hitter's park, he might not look as great as he does playing in a pitcher's park in the weaker National League West. Alas, Cain does get to face the weaker line-ups of the National League in the friendly confines of AT&T Park. The baseball gods have apparently decided that in return for this fortunate turn of fate, Cain will be sentenced to a career of virtually no run support.
By now, Cain is used to the type of loss he suffered last night. Despite having a 3.33 career ERA, he actually possesses a losing record of 70-75. This year he has thrown the ball exceptionally well in four of his five starts, yet his record is 1-2.
It's fitting that Cain started his Giants career in 2005, the year that their current run of offensive futility began. In 2004, Barry Bonds' final Most Valuable Player (MVP) season, the Giants were 7th in the league in runs scored. Bonds played in 147 games that year, belted 45 homers and slashed a ridiculous .362/.609/.812 en route to his 7th and final MVP Award.
Bonds missed almost the entire 2005 season with an injury, then struggled to stay on the field in his final two seasons, although when he did play, he was still an outstanding hitter.
Since 2004, only the Pirates and Mariners have scored fewer runs than the Giants. Here is where the Giants have finished in runs scored from 2005 to the present: 29th, 24th, 29th, 29th, 26th, 17th (won World Series), 29th and 19th so far this season.
If you think Brian Sabean's offseason moves will propel the Giants into the top half of the league in runs scored this season—there is a pretty lengthy history of ponds-Bond futility to cripple those hopes.
Unless Barry Bonds is walking through that door tonight with his 1.421 OPS of 2004 in one hand and the cream and clear in another, this is the fate that Matt Cain and Giants fans will be resigned to for the next five years.
It's a cruel fate the gods have assigned to us. How tragic is it that the one hit the Giants managed with a runner in scoring position last night did not actually score a run. It is torture like that which keeps us coming back, hoping against fate that the Giants will be just mediocre enough on offense to support the brilliant work of Cain and the rest of the excellent pitching staff.