The 2007 and 2008 seasons saw Matt Cain dominate at times and somehow leave the ballpark with a loss. His record in the previous two seasons was 15-30 and yet he still ranked in the top 20 in ERA both years.
That doesn't make much sense now does it?
When asked about if Cain was ready to take that next step to the kind of pitcher people thought he could be before the year began, there was always the statement, “Yeah, but...” and then usually a tilt of the head.
He’d certainly pitched to the caliber of at least a rising front-end of the rotation guy, but the lack of run support had hurt his numbers significantly.
I’d like to find a pitcher who had gotten absolutely no run support as frequently Cain had. Problem is, there probably wasn’t another case out there and the Giants' righty became the prime example of a pitcher who went unrewarded after turning in quality start after quality start.
However, 2009 is a different version of Cain. He not only is off to the best start of his career in terms of consistency, but he is also getting wins in games he would have lost the past two years.
With wins come confidence and the knowledge of taking mound without having to pitch a shutout every game certainly helps things out a bit.
The most important thing might just be that. Cain is actually getting runs in support of his effort on the mound that he never did the past two seasons. He is getting over five runs a game this season instead of barely three like the previous two and you know that has to feel good.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio is still lower than you would like it to be, 28-to-19 in 38 innings, but the difference this season compared to the last two is that when Cain gets into jams, he is not letting those runners score.
Even though he didn't get the win Tuesday against the Nationals, you can't say it was a bad outing. Except for a piece of great hitting by Nick Johnson, Cain again was solid. Not great like some of his other starts this season, but he certainly would have deserved a win if the bullpen didn't blow the lead.
Take away Johnson’s three-run, opposite field homer and Cain’s line would have looked a lot better. It was just one of those hits where you just tip your cap and continue your night.
A little help from his bullpen and Cain could very well be at the top of the National League in wins and coming off what "The Franchise" did a year ago, seeing the other young stud in the rotation get out to a fast start is yet another sign that this team is a little better than what people thought they might be.
If he can continue to do what he's currently doing, there's no reason to think he won't push Tim Lincecum for the team lead in wins. His quick start out of the gate has allowed him to set the pace early and you know there has to be some friendly competition amongst the two flamethrowers.
Again and again we pound it into the pavement, but if the Giants want to keep winning like they have been of late, 15 out their last 21, then the pitching will have to continue to take the reins and blow away the opposition.
The Giants had allowed the fewest runs in the majors coming into the week, but they had also scored the fewest, so banking on the bats to continue to do what they have done against the Nationals would be a little hard to fathom at this point of the year.
But for now, we should sit back and see the evolution of Cain happen right in front of our eyes.
And for a guy who has been so much and is only 24 years old, seeing it all click in front of your eyes is quite a sight to see.
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