That won’t be the case after Cain gritted through six innings and received – for him – a veritable outpouring of support from the Giants’ offense in a 5-2 Bay Bridge Series win over the A’s.
The Giants won for just the fifth time in Cain’s 15 starts this season and the eighth time in their last 28 games – and still regained the National League West lead by percentage points over the Los Angeles Dodgers after their rivals lost Wednesday afternoon in Detroit.
“I think if you look at how things have gone, you may find that amazing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But it’s all from the good work that happened earlier, and we’ve got to get back on that track.
“There’s a long road ahead of us, but I will say they’re fighting.”
While Cain has had his share of struggles, his record is not entirely his fault. He has had two or fewer runs of support in 11 of his 15 starts and entered Wednesday with the third-lowest average run support (2.99) among N.L. starters. The Giants had scored just 15 runs for their starters over the previous 12 games.
In comparison, their five-run output Wednesday looked like a barrage, particularly in the wake of their totaling one run in the first 18 innings of the series in Oakland. The Giants improved to 31-4 on the season when scoring five or more runs and snapped the A’s winning streak at six games.
After going 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of this series, the Giants went 2 for 10 in those situations Wednesday. But the two hits – RBI singles by Buster Posey in the third and Hunter Pence in the sixth – were key.
Pence also hit his 12th home run of the season, a drive to straightaway center in the fourth that landed in the Giants’ new edible garden that includes Pence’s beloved kale.
“Guys came up with some big clutch hits when we needed them and put some pressure on those guys, which is always nice,” Cain said.
Cain allowed only two hits through the first four innings, both to first baseman Stephen Vogt, including a fourth-inning home run on a full-count slider that cleared the wall in right-center field and landed on the walkway outside the park. Cain, though, responded by striking out Nos. 3-4 hitters Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss and getting All-Star Josh Donaldson to fly out to right.
The A’s threatened again in the fifth when Jed Lowrie hit a leadoff single and Cain threw Alberto Callaspo’s comeback liner into center field, putting two runners on with one out. Cain, though, caught a break with opposing pitcher Jason Hammel batting after Callaspo. Hammel bunted both runners up, and Cain induced a groundout from Coco Crisp to get out of the inning unscathed.
At that point, the Giants had staked Cain to a 3-1 lead against Hammel, who was making his A’s debut after arriving via trade last week from the Chicago Cubs. Gregor Blanco scored the first run with some aggressive baserunning in the second, drawing a one-out walk and scoring from first when Joe Panik lined a single to left and Cespedes mishandled the ball.
Hammel, acquired from the Cubs with Jeff Samardzija, couldn’t match the winning debut of his fellow newcomer, departing after five innings and 99 pitches. It snapped a streak of six games in which an A’s starter threw at least six innings and gave up no more than one run – the longest such streak by an A’s team since at least 1914.
Cain, meanwhile, has allowed just four runs in 191/3 innings over his last three starts, in which he said he has concentrated more on putting hitters away when ahead in counts and Posey said Cain’s fastball command has improved over previous outings.
Asked if it was a relief to get his second win, Cain gave a wry grin.
“Yeah, it definitely is,” he said. “It’s definitely not how you want to go into the break with just two wins, with a team that’s playing as well as we are.
“You definitely like to be able to participate a little more, help out. So that’s something I’ll definitely make sure to do in the second half.”