SF Giants History

Matt Cain Getting Cained: A Love Story

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Matt Cain was one of the only bright spots for the San Francisco Giants in 2008. Barry Bonds had retired and the Giants had little else.

Cain had established himself in 2005 and 2006 that he was a pitcher worth building around. After back to back seasons of 32 starts in 2006 and 2007, Cain entered the 2008 season as one of the leaders in the clubhouse. He was 23.

A perfect example of what kind of pitcher he was was a May 30th game in 2008 against the San Diego Padres.

Cain would face off against future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux. The Giants challenged the greatest right hander of his era with names like Fred Lewis, John Bowker and Jose Castillo.

Somehow, the Giants did manage two runs in six innings off of Maddux, but like any Hall of Famer, the damage was limited.

Matt Cain allowed three runs in the third inning. With one out, Cain gave up a single and a double. Then, Brian Giles hit one to triples alley. Adrian Gonzalez followed that up with a double to score Giles and the Padres led 3-1.

Most 23 year old pitchers would crumble in that situation. Most.

Cain settled down and forced Kevin Kouzmanoff to ground out weakly to third, keeping Gonzalez at second base. Then he stuck out Khalil Greene swinging. He got out of the inning without letting it become a big inning that would force Bruce Bochy to pull him early in the game.

What separates great pitchers from mediocre pitchers is what they do when they give up some runs and they have to keep their team in the game.

Cain not only limited the damage, but he got into a groove.

In the 4th inning:

  • Groundout to First Base
  • Walk on 7 pitches
  • Maddux – Sacrifice Bunt to move the runner
  • Groundout in front of home

In the 5th inning: (Same three guys who doubled/tripled/doubled in the 3rd)

  • Groundout to Third Base
  • Groundout to First Base
  • Strikeout Swinging

This is huge, because the most common thing from a young pitcher is struggling through the second and third time through the order. This was the second time through the order and each guy had an extra base hit the first time through. Many young pitchers would struggle. Cain did not.

In the 6th inning:

  • Flyball to Right Field
  • Flyball to Center Field
  • Groundout to Second Base

In the 7th Inning: 

Cain led off the 7th inning issuing a double to Paul McAnaulty. Some managers may have pulled their young right hander, but Cain had earned a chance to get out of it.

  • Strikeout Swinging
  • Strikeout Swinging
  • Ground Ball weakly to Third Base

Like. A. Boss.

The game was 3-2 as Matt Cain walked off the field to a standing ovation.

Ray Durham walked to leadoff the bottom of the seventh. The new pitcher for the Padres balked, which moved Durham to second. Bowker then singled him home. The game was now tied. Matt Cain led them there.

More from Around the Foghorn

The Giants would go on to lose in the 13th inning because Billy Sadler gave up four runs in the top of the 13th. But Matt Cain showed everyone what it means to be a pitcher on this day.

There have been several articles this week highlighting the best of Matt Cain and the hard luck of Matt Cain.

People will forever point to his perfect game. Some may look to his All-Star start. Others will say his 0.00 ERA in the 2010 post season was the best thing about his career. Some may point to a specific game, like Game 3 against the Phillies in the NLCS in 2010 or Game 5 against the Reds in the NLDS in 2012.

Next: A Thank You To Matt Cain

However, when I think about the best game of Cain’s career, I look at a game like May 30th, 2008 as much as any other game he ever pitched.