June 13 was a perfect night for Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants.
Cain tossed the first perfect game in team history, retiring all 27 Houston Astros hitters in order and striking out 14 of them. Giants fans went ballistic when first baseman Brandon Belt caught the final out, and it marked yet another special moment in Giants history.
However, there haven't been any special moments for Cain since the perfect game.
When Cain threw his perfect game, he was viewed by just about everyone as the ace of the Giants' pitching staff. Tim Lincecum was struggling, and Cain, who had never received much attention, suddenly was the recipient of lots of attention.
And he's still been getting lots of attention. However, it hasn't been good attention.
Since throwing the 22nd perfect game in league history, Cain has struggled. He hasn't pitched into the ninth inning or shut out the opponent in his last eight starts, and he is just 2-2 in those starts (1-2 in his last seven starts). In his last seven starts, the Giants are 2-5.
Cain only allowed two earned runs in five innings Wednesday against the Mets, but those stats don't show how he performed. Gregor Blanco saved a run with a spectacular catch in the fourth inning, and Cain got away with some mistakes when runners were on base.
In the start before that, Cain shut down the Dodgers for 4.2 innings. Then, he started to make some mistakes. He left pitches over the plate consistently, and the Dodgers scored two runs in the fifth and one run in the sixth. Cain wasn't charged with a loss, but he deserved one (the Giants eventually lost in extra innings).
Even though he still has decent numbers (Cain is 10-4 with a 2.82 ERA), Giants fans have a reason to be concerned. Cain has always been known for his consistency, and while he has been somewhat consistent since his perfecto, Giants fans haven't seen the dominant performance we've been looking for from Cain (after the perfect game).
Cain doesn't let many runners on base (he has a team-leading 1.00 WHIP), but he has struggled to pitch out of jams. He did a good job getting out of jams against the Mets on Tuesday, but in other previous starts, he struggled with that.
When Tim Lincecum was struggling mightily in the first half, Cain dominated to make up for Lincecum's struggles. However, Lincecum has done well since the All-Star break, and Cain has been the one struggling.
Luckily, the rest of the pitching staff has picked him up nicely.
Ryan Vogelsong led the league in ERA before his start Friday night against the Rockies. Vogelsong doesn't lead the league anymore, but he still does boast a 2.38 ERA and a 9-5 record. His streak of 16 consecutive quality starts ended against the Rockies (he allowed four earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched), but he continued his streak of 21 starts with six-plus innings pitched.
Vogelsong has a true feel-good story and better statistics than Cain, yet people still think of Cain as the team's ace. Vogelsong knows how to force weak contact, get out of jams and pitch under pressure, which is why he's been so good. Cain has struggled to do some of that, and he's made more mistakes than Vogelsong.
Right now, Vogelsong is the team's ace. Cain is still a good pitcher, but fans should be worried about him. Usually, I'm ecstatic when Cain starts, because I know he will turn in a good performance. However, I don't have that feeling right now.
He has shown signs of anger and frustration after bad innings and seems to have lost his confidence. Lincecum's struggles were much worse, but Cain's have been similar. His next start will be against the Cardinals, who have scored the second-most runs in baseball. That definitely won't help his confidence.
It may take a little while before we see the dominant performance we've been looking for. Cain has been missing his spots, and opponents have been taking advantage of his struggles. If Cain can deliver against the Cardinals, I wouldn't be worried anymore.
However, if his recent struggles continue, it could spell doom for the Giants down the stretch.