SAN FRANCISCO -- Before Tuesday’s game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sounded cautiously optimistic talking about right-hander Matt Cain -- that it takes time, after a pitcher misses such an extended period with injuries, to maintain a regular rhythm and arm slot, that the game can still speed up on a veteran, that he believes Cain is "only going to get better with each outing as far as comfort, command."
They were positive words, but also implied Cain is still trying to regain the form that the Giants envisioned him having going into the season, when they pictured a healthy Cain helping to anchor their rotation. Cain then went out and pitched six innings in a start that he said "wasn’t terrible," but certainly wasn’t great -- he allowed four runs on eight hits and took the loss as the Giants fell, 5-2, to end their six-game winning streak.
Cain threw 29 pitches in the first inning as the Brewers scored twice on a Carlos Gomez double and Adam Lind single. He put together quicker innings after that, and was only at 82 pitches (62 strikes) after the sixth, but put the leadoff hitter on in the third and fourth innings and saw him score both times.
"He was pounding the strike zone well," Bochy said, "he was just wild in the strike zone. He made some two-strike mistakes that caught up with him, but he battled."
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Bochy said he thought that as the game went on, Cain’s "stuff actually got better, along with his command." Cain did retire his final six hitters, and said he made an adjustment after leaving several pitches over the middle of the plate in the earlier innings.
"They were swinging the bat early, and we started throwing the ball to the outer third (of the plate), inner third, a little bit more to let those guys get out quick," Cain said. "I just wasn’t making adjustments early enough."
Since coming off the DL, Cain has alternated three poor starts -- 13 earned runs allowed in 16 innings -- with two good ones -- one run allowed in 12 innings. Bochy said that he though Cain might have been "a bit out of rhythm" Tuesday night and just made a few location mistakes that cost him.
"Sometimes these things are hard to explain, they’re sharp from one game to another," Bochy said. "He couldn’t quite get the ball where he wanted to in the strike zone, just made some mistakes and some pitches got away from him."
The Giants are not thought to be nearing a big-name acquisition before the trade deadline, despite several starting pitchers said to be on the market. Prior to Tuesday’s game, Bochy said the Giants’ "hope" is that Cain can provide the lift that a deadline acquisition would for the second half of the season.
"To have him the last two months I think should be a bonus," Bochy said. "It’s almost like we made a move at the deadline -- here you got Matt Cain. I know I feel that way."
Cain said he wants to have that impact, especially after sitting out the second half of last season and watching the Giants fight their way into the playoffs.
"The good part is that I’m feeling good, getting back in the rotation, going back out and working on stuff between starts," Cain said.
"We’ve got a good thing going here and just need to keep that going. And I need to make sure to do my part."
* Cain’s main antagonist Tuesday -- the Giants’, really -- was Gerardo Parra, who had three hits and quelled a potential rally in the seventh with a diving catch on Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly in the right-field corner. Parra came a home run short of the cycle and scored three runs.
"He’s a good player, he’s a tough out and a really good defender," Bochy said. "I’ve always thought Parra was a real, real nice player. And he’s having a great year."
Might the Giants front office think as highly of Parra? Milwaukee, 13 games under .500, isn’t competing for a playoff spot this season, and several contenders could benefit from the depth that a player like Parra -- who also has speed and a strong arm -- could provide.
Parra raised his average Tuesday to .324, and has popped nine homers. But it would be speculation at this point to link him to any team except his own. The Giants might be on the lookout for depth but they already have a left-handed hitting fourth outfielder, Gregor Blanco, and finally have their starting outfield intact again with Nori Aoki back from his fractured fibula.
Aoki moved from eighth to second in the lineup Tuesday night with Joe Panik getting the night off, but went hitless in four at-bats and appears to still be regaining his timing after missing more than a month with the injury.
* Bochy said before the game Panik was just getting a day off, but admitted afterward that the second baseman has some lower back stiffness. Bochy had an opportunity to pinch-hit Panik against a right-handed reliever in the eighth inning but opted not to and sent up Justin Maxwell instead.
Ehire Adrianza started at second base and Bochy said it’ll likely be Adrianza at second again on Wednesday. With an off-day Thursday, that will give Panik three days to "get this calmed down," before the Giants start a series in Texas, where the weather should be hot.
Panik characterized the back tightness as a "day-to-day thing" and "one of those things that happens over the course of a season." He said it cropped up a couple days ago and he’s been getting regular treatment.
"It’s not something you want to have nagging," Panik said. He didn’t rule out playing on Wednesday, but acknowledged having a few days to rest will "help things clear up."
* The Giants were tied for first place for about 10 minutes on Tuesday night -- after the Dodgers were shut out by Sonny Gray and the A’s -- until their own game ended and they returned to a half-game behind L.A. in the West. Regardless, Bochy said it’s too early to be watching the standings.
"It doesn’t matter where you’re at right now, to be honest," Bochy said. "It’s pretty simple at this stage. There’s a lot of baseball left. There’s no point in looking at the standings, because they don’t mean anything right now."
This series concludes Wednesday with Giants right-hander Jake Peavy (2-4, 4.86) facing Brewers righty Mike Fiers (5-8, 3.94). First pitch at 12:45 p.m.