SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants right-hander Matt Cain plans to treat Monday's monumental start as if it's a youth league game in Germantown, Tenn.

Never mind that victory would mean a trip to the World Series, not postgame pizza. Cain still vowed to embrace Game 7 of the National League Championship Series as a reminder of more innocent days.

"You almost have to revert back to when you were in Little League because the game is about having fun,'' Cain said before the Giants' 6-1 victory Sunday in Game 6.

"Sometimes when you put too much on it, it kind of ruins the moment for you."

Since Cain wants to dip into the fountain of youth, the Giants would love for him to revert to the form that once made him a tee-ball legend. (Not making this up: The media guide notes that Cain, at age 5, turned three unassisted triple plays over the course of a seven-game tee-ball season.)

Then again, the Giants are just as pleased with the 28-year-old version. Cain got a hefty allowance -- $127 million over six years -- in hopes that he would come through in situations just like this.

Cain (1-2, 4.67 ERA this postseason) will face the St. Louis Cardinals' Kyle Lohse (2-0, 1.96) in a rematch of Game 3.

"He's one of the elite pitchers in the game,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You know when he goes out there he's going to give you all he has. ... That's all you can ask."

Cain saved the Giants' season once already this October. He was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds when he allowed three runs in 52/3 innings.

Before that game, Cain unearthed his turn-back-the-clock approach. He took the mound after reflecting on a start he made as a senior at Houston High in Germantown, when he lost in his bid to pitch his team to the state championship.

"That didn't end so well for me,'' Cain said of the 2002 start. "But in Cincinnati, I thought back to that game in high school. I know it's a long time in between. But I tried to use that: Go out there and still have fun. Enjoy it."

In that Game 3 meeting in St. Louis, Lohse had the upper-hand in a 3-1 Cardinals victory. The right-hander allowed one run in 52/3 innings in a game tormented by rain.

There's a similarly gloomy forecast for Monday, which is fine with Lohse. He's a mudder.

"We have a joke in the clubhouse because it seems like 60 percent of my games have rain in the forecast,'' said Lohse, a native Californian who went to Hamilton City High and Butte College. "I'm not going to change anything."





Cain's biggest challenge in St. Louis wasn't Lohse. It was Matt Carpenter, who jumped into the lineup for an injured Carlos Beltran and promptly smacked a two-run homer.

Carpenter is now 5 for 6 in his career against Cain.

This time, the right-hander needs to solve that mystery if the Giants are to win an elimination game for a sixth consecutive time. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other team to win six elimination games in a single postseason was the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

Sounds like fun to Cain.

"I wouldn't say we like it,'' he said. "But it seems like guys are playing really well when we get in this situation."