SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain is used to what happened at AT&T Park on Saturday.
The right-hander pitched a gem against the Colorado Rockies, but for the fourth time in his career, Cain lost 1-0. The defeat dropped the Giants to 2-3 on a nine-game homestand, but in the losing clubhouse, there were few long faces. Angel Pagan simply tipped his cap to the Rockies and then turned the focus to his own starting pitcher.
"I loved what I saw today," Pagan said of Cain.
There was a lot to like.
Cain no longer is the young flamethrower who regularly touched 97 mph early in his career and threw well over 2,000 fastballs a season. But he still relies heavily on the pitch, and Saturday -- unlike in his two previous starts -- Cain was able to establish it and stick with it. Twelve of his 21 outs came on the fastball, and he threw 63 of them in all, getting six swings-and-misses. In his first two starts of the season, Cain got just four swings-and-misses on his fastball while giving up seven earned runs in 11 innings. With his fifth pitch Saturday, Cain hit 94 mph on the radar gun for the first time since the 2012 season.
"A well executed fastball with a good location is a hard pitch to hit," Cain said. "I felt good. You want to make sure you stay with your mechanics and not overthrow the ball."
Catcher Hector Sanchez saw Cain staying within himself in the bullpen.
"You could see it right away," Sanchez said. "I said, 'He's good today.' "
Cain worked around a leadoff single in the first inning and stranded two in the second inning while striking out the other three Rockies he faced. In the third, Cain finally made a mistake -- a mental one, not a physical one -- and the Rockies made him pay.
Charlie Blackmon drew a leadoff walk, and Brandon Barnes followed with a single. After striking out Carlos Gonzalez, Cain focused in on Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. He briefly forgot about the runners, and both were successful on a double-steal. Tulowitzki's fly ball to right was just deep enough to score Blackmon.
"It seems sometimes that's how it goes," Cain said. "A leadoff walk and I did a bad job of keeping an eye on him. That cost us. It came down to a mental mistake and here we are, 1-0. I've been around long enough to understand what the guy is trying to do to get into scoring position. You've got (Gonzalez and Tulowitzki) at the plate and they're big RBI guys, but one of the basic things is holding runners."
Cain wouldn't have another blunder, retiring 13 of the next 15 he faced, but the one mistake was enough. The Giants seemed to catch a break when former A's left-hander Brett Anderson, after three strong innings, was removed in the fourth with a left index finger contusion. But the revamped Rockies bullpen finished what Anderson started, with five relievers giving up just two hits and striking out six in six innings.
Given a chance to get Cain off the hook in the eighth, Pablo Sandoval came up short. Brandon Crawford's double and walks of Brandon Hicks and Hunter Pence loaded the bases for the slumping third baseman, but Sandoval struck out, lowering his average to .152.
"We had the right guys up there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "But we have two or three guys that aren't swinging the bats the way they can."
The lineup sparked a quick start to the season, but deep down, the Giants knew it was a bit of fool's gold. October is about pitching, and for this group to accomplish what the 2010 and 2012 clubs did, the Giants will need Cain to consistently show the form he did Saturday.
"Every pitch was good -- the fastball, the slider, the changeup," Pagan said after watching from center field. "It's always good to see your No. 1 pitch like that."
Even in a loss.
Colorado (Tyler Chatwood 8-5 in 2013) at Giants (Tim Hudson 2-0), 1:05 p.m. CSNBA
Purdy: Sandoval's slow start is a
concern. PAGE 3
A look at Giants starter Matt Cain's pitching line from a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday at AT&T Park:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST* GO-FO**
7.0 4 1 1 3 8 0 116-73 5-2
* -- Pitches-strikes; ** -- groundouts-flyouts