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NLCS Game 3: Matt Cain Evolves Into Unhittable Surprise as Giants Seem Worthy

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NLCS Game 3: Matt Cain Evolves Into Unhittable Surprise as Giants Seem Worthy
Harry How/Getty Images

From the moment the orange towels swung wildly in a city that hasn’t tasted this much gratification in some time now, the San Francisco Giants terrified their opponents and survived in a scoreless display to convince the world.

On a Tuesday afternoon at AT&T Park where the clamorous crowd roared crazily and witnessed the improbable, the home run king Barry Bonds watched and cheered from a front-row seat, along with the obnoxious mascot Lou Seal bustling above the Giants’ dugout. It was intensely a sensational duel between two of the most dominant pitchers in the postseason, but only one survived and outdueled his counterpart in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

When it was over, Matt Cain had delivered a transcendent outing and retired opposing batters early with three scoreless innings to shut out the Phillies and capped a 3-0 win for a 2-1 lead in the series. If anything, it would be an understatement to discount the Giants, fortunate to have a resplendent pitching rotation with a trio of unhittable hurlers Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Cain.

But now, after controlling an inconceivable lead in an endearing series, after startling the Phillies with a fiery swagger to perpetuate the upper hand and after outpitching arguably the most successful rotation in baseball, the Giants veered into position to fulfill the unthinkable.

But easily, the Giants are the scariest ballclub in the majors anytime Cain takes the mound and throws heaters to cause misery. Suddenly, now is the time to worship the Giants for incredibly putting fear in the hearts of the Phillies. Twice in the postseason, the emphasis of the undaunted Cain has changed the framework and solidified the rotation, playing a critical role in the Giants quest to World Series.

And yet there is a shred of reality that San Francisco can prevail, as well as pull off the miracle in the World Series, Cain will likely be a favorable candidate to win the Most Valuable Player award. And such a feat is possible, of course, as long as the Giants win. If not for Cain, the team from the Bay Area probably wouldn’t own the lead in this series. The repertoire of solid pitching and enough oomph in the hitting department is all the needed ingredients to survive in a series as underdogs.

Coming into the series alone, the Giants were expected to lose, but with a glimpse of positive vibes and momentum, they won’t go down without a fight. Fueled by a rodeo clown’s otherworldly hitting, Cody Ross shifts the dynamics and enriched upon his incredible legacy in the postseason. Simply put, he’s a true baseball star more than a rodeo clown, a reliable and durable slugger who is keeping the Giants’ sluggish hitting alive each time he appears at bat.

Each time he deposits a fastball into the stands or drops a single into the field, he is credited for rescuing the Giants, considering that Cain saves the day pitching adequately. As it seems in each game, he has sizzled and drilled three homers in the first two games in Philadelphia, including an RBI single in Game 3 to break a scoreless tie. It never felt as if the fans were witnessing a circus, but instead it had an electric buzz as enthusiast chanted “Cody! “Cody!”

“He plays with no fear,” Giants manager Bruce Botchy said. “That’s what you like about the guy.”

But even greater, it was a signature win in a masterful game for the 26-year-old right hander. All of his pitches are nasty, vicious and unhittable, and as it turned out, he delivered in a critical game to vanquish the Phillies and outrival Hamels. What fun it is watching a ripening star in the Giants future arrangements, and fittingly a tandem alongside Lincecum. What fun it is for Giants faithful to cheer on the spectacular thrower.

“He went about his business because Game 3, as everyone talks about, is the most important game of a [seven-game] series,” Giants closer Brian Wilson said.

And he certainly was all business in a seven-inning, two-hit shutout. When he took the mound in the first inning, he furiously looked unbeatable and tough to hit. Clearly, he’s the hottest right-hander in these playoffs and won seven of his last eight starts, and 12 of his last 15.

That’s flawless.

Even more flawless is that he ranked sixth in the NL this year, holding opponents to a .221 batting average. His teammates gave him the nickname “Shotgun” a long time ago, and indeed he throws heaters on the mound and could be very intimidating. In the third inning, he allowed a one-out single to Carlos Ruiz and then accidently nailed Shane Victorino in the ribs with two outs, but controlled his command of pitches when he forced Chase Utley to ground out to shortstop.

The next inning, he yielded a one-out single to Ryan Howard, and walked Jayson Werth on the following play. But he still managed to avoid a disastrous inning and made Jimmy Rollins fly out to left, and then struck out Raul Ibanez on his breaking curveball. Finally, he snapped his horrid numbers lifetime against the Phillies, ridding a 0-3 record with a 6.23 ERA.

The Giants investing in a promising ace in the first-round of the 2002 draft, the year the Giants last appeared in the World Series, certainly paid off for a team on a mission.

Thanks in large part to the young right-hander.      

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