SAN FRANCISCO – After issuing his second walk of the fifth inning Saturday night, Matt Cain bent over at the waist in frustration. After his third, he came off the mound and appeared to bark something towards home plate.
The latter walk loaded the bases with two outs in a one-run game ahead of Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona first baseman who has more RBIs against the Giants than any other player since 2001.
It was the second time in as many nights Goldschmidt came up with the bases loaded in a close game, and for the second time, a Giants pitcher won maybe the game's most crucial at-bat.
Goldschmidt grounded out to end what turned out to be the final full inning for Cain, who labored through 102 pitches to earn his first win since June 13 as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 4-3 to pull within 4 1/2 games of first in the National League West.
Buster Posey doubled the Giants' run total in the bottom of the inning with a loud home run to center off reliever Josh Collmenter, which loomed large when the Diamondbacks began the sixth with three straight singles, the first two off Cain. Arizona again loaded the bases with two outs, but Jose Mijares struck out Adam Eaton.
Mijares had entered the game a batter earlier after Jeremy Affeldt strained his left groin throwing a 3-1 pitch to pinch hitter A.J. Pollock. Affeldt, who landed awkwardly on the delivery, left the game without attempting another pitch. Manager Bruce Bochy said Affeldt had an MRI with results expected today.
"That's never a good area," Bochy said. "So it's a possible DL."
Mijares threw a ball on his first pitch to walk Pollock, but came back to strike Eaton out swinging on a slider. Bochy used seven relievers in all to get the final 12 outs, including the final three from Sergio Romo, who had a streak of 29 scoreless innings against Arizona snapped on Martin Prado's RBI single but struck out former Giant Cody Ross for the final out.
It preserved the win for Cain, arguably the pitcher the Giants need the most to regain his past-season form if they're going to make a playoff push. Cain hadn't made it out of the third inning in his last two starts before the All-Star break.
Cain, who said he "just took it easy" over the break, allowed one hit through the first four innings and struck out Goldschmidt on a 93 mph fastball in the fourth. That and his pitch count seemed to address the questions after Cain's last outing – when he lasted just 2/3 of an inning – over whether he is dealing with any physical issues. Cain dismissed those notions again Saturday night, saying simply: "No problems."
"You go out there and you can't make it through an inning, that's not very fun," he said. "But you've got to put it past you. You can't sit there and dwell on it."
In the fifth, Cain issued a leadoff walk and one-out single to Cliff Pennington. Pinch hitter Eric Chavez then hit a potential double-play ball, but shortstop Tony Abreu's throw to first went wide, allowing a run to score. Cain walked the next two hitters before retiring Goldschmidt on his 32nd pitch of the inning.
"We made a mistake there that made him work a lot harder, helped the pitch count get up there," Bochy said. "But he felt great, looked great. Thought he had good stuff tonight."
The Giants led 2-1 at that point, but the margin might have been wider had they taken full advantage with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth. Jeff Francoeur walked to force in a run, but the Giants then had two men thrown out at the plate – Pablo Sandoval on a wild pitch and Hunter Pence on a ground ball to third – and Guillermo Quiroz struck out to end the inning.
Note – Ryan Vogelsong threw to hitters before batting practice Saturday for the first time since fracturing his pitching hand in May. He threw 35 pitches off the AT&T Park mound following 40 pitches in the bullpen and said he emerged healthy.
"My hand feels good, my arm feels good," Vogelsong said.
Bochy said Vogelsong "looked good" and if all goes well, the next step for Vogelsong is pitching in a rookie league game in Arizona on Tuesday.
The tentative schedule is to have Vogelsong make several rehab starts and rejoin the Giants around Aug. 9 or 10.