Matt Cain threw 112 pitches in his win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.
To find the last time Cain threw that many pitches, one has to travel back all the way to April 2014 – back when Cain was still viewed as one of the franchise stalwarts and workhorse starters.
Cain took a 1-0 loss back on April 12, 2014, to the Colorado Rockies, throwing 116 pitches. He topped 100 pitches seven more times that season, a year in which injuries and ineffectiveness first started taking their toll on him and he was limited to 15 starts.
A season later, Cain made only 11 starts and just once topped 100 pitches. Last year, he was up to 17 starts and got up to 111 pitches in one May outing. But he was on the disabled list with a hamstring strain two weeks later and slogged through another rough season.
The aggregate from 2014-16: an 8-19 record, a 5.13 ERA over 43 starts and just 240 1/3 innings pitched.
Manager Bruce Bochy has taken a cautious approach with Cain, who hadn’t gone past 92 pitches until Monday night and hadn’t thrown more than 86 in any of his last five starts. The training wheels came off against the Dodgers, so to speak.
“He’s such great control out there with his delivery, not putting a lot of effort in it. He’s shown great command,” Bochy said. “His stamina’s back. His strength is there. He just made great pitches all night.”
Bochy said he would’ve let Cain go longer in his last outing if he didn’t need to pinch-hit for him and on Monday, he was impressed with how Cain bounced back after giving a leadoff double to Joc Pederson in the first inning. He retired the next three batters, striking out both Corey Seager and Cody Belinger looking.
“He gives up a leadoff double and settles down and made some great pitches there to keep them from scoring,” Bochy said. “He just did a nice job of pitching, using four pitches with command.”
Cain, likewise, was happy with how that first inning quickly shifted after the Pederson double.
“That was the nice part is we’ve been kind of working on stuff in the bullpen so I was trying to keep it as simple as I could,” Cain said. “Worry about kind of throwing through the plate, not trying to nit pick. Buster (Posey) did a good of mixing it up to be able to set those guys to where we were able to go in and go away later. He did a good back there of keeping those guys off balance.”
It hasn’t been easy for Cain to go from one of the leaders of an All-Star and championship winning pitching staff to a guy who had to fight to earn the No. 5 starting job during the spring. But he noted the support he’s received in the organization as one reason he’s started to pull himself out of a three-year funk.
“It’s been a long road, but it something I’ve been kind of grinding at,” Cain said. “Guys around here have definitely helped out with that. Just had to find my confidence again and go out there trying to repeat my delivery. It’s been nice to have a ton of support. Guys have been extremely helpful, so it’s a big part of it.”
Cain’s now allowed just three earned runs in 22 2/3 innings pitched over four home starts this year and one run in 12 2/3 innings against the Dodgers. The season hasn’t been perfect – he’s just 10 days removed from allowing nine runs and 10 hits while walking six against the Cincinnati Reds – but after a couple of years of being counted out, Cain is finally looking more like a guy the Giants can count on again.