SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain went to cut a sandwich, dropped the knife and cut his right index finger open instead. That in turn opened a door for Yusmeiro Petit to calmly step in and pitch six scoreless innings in his first start of the year as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, 6-0.
After his kitchen mishap, Cain still went out for batting practice, but found any time he tried to throw a ball, the seams would re-open the half-inch cut on his forefinger. So an hour or so before the game, Petit, who hadn’t pitched since April 21, learned he’d be starting the game instead.
"As far as how far he could go, we knew he had between 70 and 80 pitches," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Petit ended up throwing 72. Fifty of them went for strikes. He retired the Padres in order in each of the first three innings, allowing his first baserunner on Everth Cabrera’s lead-off single in the fourth. And aside from a Chris Denorfia single in the fourth and a double by Padres reliever Donn Roach in the fifth, Petit was otherwise flawless.
"Tonight he saved us," Bochy said.
"He just did a great job, had good command of his fastball, all his pitches, used both sides of the plate well. We saw him do this last year, pitch like that, and it was fun to watch."
Last year, of course, Petit came within one out of a perfect game in his second start with the Giants after being called up in late August -- to replace an injured Cain. There wasn’t nearly as much drama Tuesday (though the first three innings conjured some memories) -- just an economical outing at a much-needed time for the Giants.
Petit threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of 20 batters and only got into two three-ball counts. He struck out four and got 10 outs by way of ground balls.
Remarkably, Petit said he hadn’t thrown a bullpen session of any length since he was last in a game April 21 in Colorado. He said it’s "tough" staying sharp with such a layoff, but did so playing catch daily and understands that’s part of being the long man in the Giants’ bullpen -- a role he previously held with the Diamondbacks.
"I’m prepared any time for that -- one moment before the game, you’re going to start the game," Petit said. "It’s normal for me."
Petit said starting on short notice is similar to coming in as a long reliever, with the main difference being he can gradually up his velocity and introduce secondary pitches when starting, as opposed to needing to have everything working immediately in relief.
It likely helped that catcher Hector Sanchez was just as nonchalant about the pre-game switch. Sanchez said he saw the lineup change about 40 minutes before first pitch, went up to Cain "and asked, ‘What happened, man?’" Then he went to Petit, he said, and their conversation basically consisted of what sign corresponded with what pitch.
"We didn’t talk about hitters," Sanchez said. "I know the way he works and I know a lot of those guys for the Padres. So we just tried to work on the same page."
Sanchez said Petit "made my job easy. Anywhere I called for the ball, he made it easy."
Just as efficient were Jean Machi, who pitched two perfect innings in relief of Petit, and Santiago Casilla, who retired the side in order in the ninth. All told, the three needed just 105 pitches to record 27 outs.
* As for Cain, the right-hander sounded more embarrassed about the knife incident than anything. He said he’s "really confident" he’ll be able to make his next start, and thinks he’ll be able to throw before then.
"Extra day will help," he said.
The grief from Jeremy Affeldt, however, may not go away so quickly.
Affeldt, of course, has suffered several fluky injuries in his career, none more than when he cut himself slicing frozen hamburger patties. Affeldt said Cain "made fun of me for three straight years" for that.
So after Cain’s kitchen mishap Tuesday, Affeldt said: "I was the first one to go visit him. I felt bad for his situation."
Said Cain: "He had a lot of fun with it considering how much fun we gave him. Now I get to feel like an idiot."
Cain said he dropped the knife and "must have tried to catch it again," sustaining a cut on the tip of his right index finger. Had he tried to pitch, he said, "It would’ve been bleeding the whole time."
"It’s just obviously really, really bad timing," Cain said. "But Petit did an unbelievable job. He picked it up and the guys scored a bunch of runs. So that was the good part of it.
"(Petit is) a huge asset for us."
* Not asked was whether Cain, who is still winless this season despite two starts of seven innings with zero or one earned run, felt a level of incredulity watching the Giants hit two first-inning home runs to stake Petit to an early cushion.
Angel Pagan led off the game hitting Eric Stults’ high fastball to left for his second home run of the season, and Buster Posey added his sixth two batters later. The Giants have hit 33 homers already this season -- their most in any month since they hit 36 in September 2010 and nearly a third of their total all last season (107).
Tuesday also marked the first time since July 22, 2008 that the Giants hit two first-inning homers in a home game -- Fred Lewis and Bengie Molina did it against the Nationals.
"I was feeling more relaxed" after that, Petit said.
* Still, Bochy said the "huge at-bat of the night" belonged to Sanchez in the third inning. The Giants had loaded the bases with no outs, but Michae Morse hit into a 1-2-3 double play, giving the Padres and Stults a chance to escape. Stults intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval to get to Sanchez, who lined a soft two-out single to center. Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI single to put the Giants up 5-0 and knock Stults out of the game.
"They were close to getting out of it," Bochy said. "(Sanchez) delivered in a big way."
* The Giants still went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position Tuesday, making it 16 consecutive games with two or fewer hits in those situations. Still, they’re 10-6 in those games.
* Last time Sandoval was walked intentionally ahead of Sanchez was in Colorado, and Sanchez hit an extra-inning grand slam.
"Oh man, I remember that," Sanchez said with a grin. "It’s a situation you want to be in. I try to be focused in that situation."
* The Giants can capture this series and finish April 17-11 behind Tim Hudson (3-1, 2.19) in the series finale tomorrow. The Padres will start lefty Robbie Erlin (1-3, 6.35). First pitch at 7:15 p.m.