Friday, October 29, 2010
Giants' Matt Cain Treats San Francisco to Party Near Bay
In a town that really knows how to party, Giants fans are throwing an after-party by the bay, thrilled by the San Francisco Giants' captivating turnaround. In every sense, the city has been a lively, festive place with Halloween looming ever closer and die-hard fans wearing costumes or rowing into McCovey Cove, the waterway near the gorgeous ballpark at the bay.
Every night has felt like a party in the Bay Area, and it has been fun to watch the World Series generate action-packed drama and a beautiful tale. On another pleasant night, the Giants ignited yet another party and continued their World Series awakening with nearly every swing. It’s no coincidence that the Giants are the best ballclub to return to the Fall Classic, hitting the Texas Rangers, a ballclub that shed the misery and gruesome memories of postseason failures, harder than ever when much is at stake.
The wildest and most raucous fans in the majors waved orange pom-poms in the stands and were even more exhilarated to cheer on a 9-0 shutout over the Rangers that gave the Giants a 2-0 series lead. For once Thursday night, the Giants were taken seriously and capped one of the most lopsided wins in recent World Series history.
What we learned after this game is that Matt Cain is the latest version of Mr. October. His curly hairstyle reminds us of Larry from the Three Stooges, but his untouchable pitches remind us of a Most Valuable Player. For six-plus innings, he looked spectacular and too lethal to outduel with his usual fastball and incredible calmness on the mound. He could easily be named the next World Series MVP courtesy of his superb pitching in the postseason if the Giants win a title.
The Rangers were 0-7 with runners in scoring position against Cain, who made a vivid statement that he is the best pitcher this fall, clearly better than Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum. As baseball’s next legend ripens before our very eyes, Cain is more than a talented pitcher, but a gifted pitcher within a franchise suddenly relishing a fascinating moment in recent memory.
As for Cain, of course, it was merely another flawless start, and he is still untouchable without allowing an earned run in the postseason. What should be memorable for the average Giants fan is that Cain has an astonishing 0.00 ERA. That is, of course, a rarity in the fall, but not when Cain is capable of throwing his fastballs on both sides of the plate, not when he wears an intimidating stare and shuts down the powerful lineup.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good situation,” said Cain. “We’ve just got to take that confidence and some of the good approaches that we’ve had into these last two games and take them down to Texas with us.”
When he left the game following 7 2/3 sterling innings, to be anointed with a standing ovation, he tipped his cap to the energized fan base, and one fan hoisted a sign that read, “Cain’t touch this.” There was even a sea of pom-poms wildly swinging to string together the craziest frenzy. Cain is barely 26, but is already close to winning his first World Series. He’s barely in his prime, but his legend is growing rapidly with a franchise that could eventually lavish him with an enormous deal.
With all the drama, he’s more valuable than Lincecum, the ace of the Giants who really isn’t the noteworthy ace but overshadowed by a more superior starter in the rotation. And finally this year, Cain, the longest-tenured Giant, is pitching a gem, not any longer relying on luck or talent. Last season, Cain was mentored by Randy Johnson, who taught him about being a starter. Cain must have listened; he is arguably the best pitcher on the Giants alongside Lincecum and the frightening closer Brian Wilson.
“He did a really good job of emphasizing to stay deep in the game…instead of trying to change the ball in different guys’ hands,” Cain said. “Not trying to say anything…but sometimes those guys might not be feeling good.”
This postseason, no one can match Cain’s resiliency and invincibility. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 21.1 innings and owns a 2-0 record in his first three postseason starts. Thirty-five year old Edgar Renteria drove a fastball off C.J. Wilson over the left-field wall for a fifth-inning solo home run. But the real damage came in the eighth inning, the one inning that seemed to be a nightmare from Hell. As Wilson was removed from the sixth with a blister, Cain found his moment to shine.
“He’s probably been our most consistent pitcher,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “He’s such a bulldog…He should be recognized.”
By now, he’s recognized.