Matt Cain’s name used to double as a verb around AT&T Park. To be “Cained” as a pitcher was to record a good start, receive little to no run support and go without a win for the evening.
If not for that trend early in his career, Cain might have long ago reached the milestone he achieved Sunday in the Giants’ 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals. Injuries and ineffectiveness in his last three seasons added to the wait.
Cain started the 2014 season with 93 career wins. Sunday, finally, he won his 100th. Cain became the sixth pitcher to win 100 games in a San Francisco Giants uniform, joining two Hall of Famers (Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry), two Cy Young winners (Tim Lincecum and Mike McCormick) and a former fan favorite (Kirk Rueter).
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal,” Cain said. “But for it to take three years, it feels good. It definitely feels good, especially the way it worked out today.”
Cain did not allow a hit over five scoreless innings. He battled his command, walking four hitters and hitting another, but struck out five to win his second consecutive decision – the first time Cain has done that since May 2013. The Giants, meanwhile, won back-to-back games for the first time since the All-Star break, splitting their four-game series against the Nationals and leaving for a nine-game East Coast trip on a high note.
“He’s starting to get back to the rhythm he had before he hurt his hamstring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I guess you could say he was effectively wild a little bit today. But he elevated well, mixed up his pitches. He did a nice job against a tough lineup.”
Cain’s wildness left him at 93 pitches after the fifth, at which point manager Bruce Bochy started to go off script. First, Bochy pinch-hit for Cain leading off the bottom of the fifth, making Cain just the third Giants pitcher since 1958 to throw at least five no-hit innings without completing the game (also Lincecum and Mike Krukow).
The pinch hitter Bochy sent up was pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who lined a double off the wall in right-center field. And Bochy then pinch-ran for Bumgarner with pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who scored when Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon made a bad throw on a potential inning-ending ground ball.
“It’s definitely a little bit different to get pinch-hit for by another pitcher,” said Cain, who raised both arms above his head after Bumgarner’s double. “But I definitely tip my hat to him. He’s a better hitter than I am.”
Is Samardzija that much better a runner than Bumgarner?
“Have you not seen his highlight videos?” Bumgarner said of the former Notre Dame wide receiver.
That put the Giants ahead 2-0 and proved to be the game-winning run. Bumgarner, in his last five plate appearances as a pinch- hitter dating to last season, has four hits and a walk.
“He would’ve got it anyway,” Bumgarner said of Cain’s 100th win. “But that’s a pretty special deal. Not too many people get that opportunity.”
Bryce Harper singled off George Kontos leading off the sixth inning and scored on a double by Rendon, ending both the no-hitter and shutout. But the Giants’ bullpen held Cain’s lead, with Santiago Casilla saving the win in the ninth by striking out National League batting average leader Daniel Murphy swinging at three straight fastballs to end the game.
It was a timely outing by Casilla, against the recent backdrop of the Giants’ search for relief help before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Casilla recorded his 24th save, and after the game, Bochy said of Casilla, “He’s really, I think, trying to show that he is the guy.”
In the clubhouse, the Giants acknowledged Cain’s milestone win with a quick celebration – skipping the champagne. Said Cain: “We went with a nice, high-class Bud Light.”
“It’s been a long road for him, dealing with the injuries, the surgery,” Bochy said. “But to see him bounce back and throw well, we couldn’t be happier for him. But it’s going to be critical for us that he throws like this from now on and gives us a chance to win.”
Cain said the significance of reaching 100 wins only hit him after the game.
“It definitely choked me up a little bit,” he said. “To go through three years of trying to find a way to get seven wins, it was definitely a long road. I’ve got to get more of them.”