Does This Look Familiar? Cain Throws a Gem, Giants Lose

Evan Aczon@TwoSeamGripeSenior Analyst IJuly 2, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 17:  Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the New York Mets during a Major League Baseball game on May17, 2009 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For the first three months of the 2009 season, it looked like Matt Cain was finally getting what he deserved. Run support.

Tonight, as with his past three starts, it looked like a Matt Cain blast from the past.

Cain turned in another solid effort, strengthening his bid for the 2009 All-Star Game, and lowering his top-five ERA by only allowing one run in seven innings.

And lost.

The San Francisco offense couldn’t get it done, wasting a couple of good opportunities and only pushing across one run against Cardinals' starter Adam Wainwright. 

This is somewhat of a rarity this season, as the Giants have been giving Cain run support like he’s never had before, scoring over five runs per game for the 25-year-old hurler. It has allowed him to flourish and garner national attention, going 9-3 with a 2.48 ERA.

But the last couple weeks, with runs piling up in starts all around him (six runs yesterday, 10 runs on Monday, seven on Sunday, six on Saturday), Cain has received four runs in his last three starts.

He went eight strong against Texas for a no-decision and San Francisco scored only two runs behind him. Against Milwaukee, Cain went seven innings and got roughed up, in the context of his season, giving up five runs and taking his second loss of the season, with the offense only giving him one run of support.

Tonight against St. Louis, it was déjà vu all over again. Cain worked around an error in the first inning, giving up a run. The rest of the time, he weathered the storm, allowing baserunners, but not letting them score.

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On the other side of the ball, Wainwright baffled Giants' hitters, striking out 12. His curveball was extremely effective, and it seemed to get better as the game progressed, striking out seven in the final three innings.

The best chance San Francisco had was in the eighth inning, when they loaded the bases with nobody out after Fred Lewis led off the inning with a pinch-hit double. Following Aaron Rowand’s infield single and a walk by Randy Winn.

But Wainwright regained his composure after a visit from pitching coach Dave Duncan, and struck out Pablo Sandoval on a 3-2 pitch. He coaxed a sacrifice fly from Bengie Molina then struck out Nate Schierholtz to end the threat.

Aside from that inning, the Giants were unable to mount any sort of a rally against the Cardinals’ starter. Travis Ishikawa pulled a hat trick, and four other Giants had multi-strikeout games.

The strategy of giving Albert Pujols the Barry Bonds treatment has paid off. Yesterday against Randy Johnson, Pujols homered twice. Two nights ago, he almost homered against Lincecum, hitting one off the top of the wall.

Tonight, Pujols ability was limited, being intentionally walked twice. His two singles didn’t end up being part of any Cardinals’ rallies, but his presence in the on deck circle definitely contributed to Colby Rasmus getting the pitch he did from Bobby Howry.

Cain’s outing was once again wasted, and while he still figures to be a strong candidate for the All-Star Game, his stellar season will not continue unless the Giants start scoring behind him again.

With an ERA of 2.48, he only needs a couple of runs per game to get the wins. San Francisco needs to find some way to get three runs across. That will definitely help keep Cain in the national spotlight along with Tim Lincecum.

While Lincecum is heating up as Cain is hitting a bump in the road, both need support from the above-expectations San Francisco offense. That will keep games like tonight’s in the exception column, and not the rule.