Matt Cain helps Giants take control of the World Series. Yes, Matt Cain.
Friday, October 29, 2010; 1:18 AM
Many thought the 2010 postseason might be dominated by one almost untouchable pitcher whose ERA might approach zero, zilch, 0.00. In this Year of the Pitcher, his name might be Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia or Roy Oswalt. They'd pitched no-hitters or perfect games, made runs at a Cy Young Award or been almost untouchable down the stretch. Even Tim Hudson, Francisco Liriano and Cole Hamels had backers.
Somebody forgot to tell Matt Cain.
Maybe it ticked the big man off. After 72/3 shutout innings of victorious ball against the Texas Rangers in Game 2 of the World Series, Cain now has that easy-to-remember ERA of 0.00 in 211/3 innings over three October starts. Now, the Rangers have merely joined the Braves and Phillies as teams with nothing except one unearned division-series run off the 6-foot-3, 245-pound right-hander.
After a 9-0 win that was still a 2-0 pitcher's duel when Cain left in the eighth inning, the Giants have a two-games-to-none sleeper hold on this Series. Throughout history, teams that have taken such quick leads have ended up as champion 79 percent of the time. Since Cain would await the Rangers back here in a Game 6, if necessary, the odds against Texas now look at least that bad.
Things change fast this time of year. Lee gets torched one night. So much for riding on Superman's cape. The next night you discover that Cain owns you. Entering this game, Texas hitters, in their careers, had a combined .109 batting average off him. Okay, smallish sample size. Not anymore. Until they prove otherwise, the Rangers look unable to beat Cain.
Until this month, Cain, 26, was famous only for his bad luck. Every form of analysis shows that, with normal run support, he'd be a star. But, year after year, San Francisco never scores for him, so his career record is 57-62. A loser with a 3.45 career ERA!?
"Matt should be recognized. He's had some bad luck over the years. . . . He's been our most consistent pitcher since Day One," Manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's such a bulldog."
Finally, Cain discovered a solution for that lack of recognition. Even the Giants can't stop him from getting his due if he never gives up an earned run. So, he hasn't.
In this Game 2, Cain probably made the Giants world champions for the first time since they came to California in 1958. This has not turned out to be Lee's Series. But it's quickly becoming Cain's postseason. And the Rangers haven't even seen the Giants' third ace, lefty Jonathan Sanchez whose 3.07 ERA was lower than Cain's 3.14 this season and who strikes out more men and allowed the fewest hits per inning in the National League this season.
It's quickly becoming clear that this postseason wasn't about the Yankees' payroll, the Phillies' attempt for a third straight pennant or the Rangers' first Series visit in 50 seasons. It starting to look like the true purpose of the exercise is to show how good the Giants' young starting pitching staff really is, especially working in cavernous AT&T Park. None of the four are over 27 and Madison "the Future" Bumgarner, due to start Game 4, is 21.
How good are the Giants' starters? The highest-paid Giant is Barry Zito at $16 million this season. And he was left off the team for the entire postseason even though he started 33 games, and pitched 1991/3 innings to a credible 4.15 ERA. He wasn't bad. He just wasn't exceptional enough to be in the Giants' rotation.