San Francisco Giants Morning Minute: Cain Finally Wins, Weird Lineup Not a Problem

May 21, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain (18) pitches the ball against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain (18) pitches the ball against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

On this edition of the San Francisco Giants Morning Minute, we discuss Matt Cain finally earning a win, the Giants’ weird lineup, and Joel Osich.

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Good morning, San Francisco Giants’ fans, and welcome to another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. On Saturday, the Giants evened their series with the Chicago Cubs, coming away with a 5-3 victory. Matt Cain earned his first win of the season, while Jon Lester took the loss to fall to 4-3. Santiago Casilla closed the ballgame for his 11th save.

The Giants are now 26-19 on the season, and have won nine of their last 10 contests. They remain the only team in the National League West with a winning record, while the Colorado Rockies are 3.5 games back at 21-21 after winning Saturday. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost their fourth straight game, and are 4.5 games back in third place. Here’s what went on for the Giants on Saturday.

1 – Matt Cain Wins!

For Matt Cain, it had been nearly 10 months, 15 starts, since there was a “W” next to his name after a game. Whether he pitched very well (like his two previous starts) or gets blown out (like a few starts early in the year), he just couldn’t pick up career win number 98. That changed on Saturday night.

Over six strong innings against baseball’s best offense, Cain held the Cubs to one run, coming from a Kris Bryant solo home run, and scattered five other hits, all singles, without allowing another run. He ended his night emphatically, striking out the final three Cubs’ batters he faced in the sixth inning.

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It wasn’t easy for Cain. The Cubs did what they normally do, grinding out at-bats and making pitchers work hard for their outs. Cain needed 23 pitches in the first inning and 25 in the third, but kept his pitch count under control by throwing 41 in the final three innings, where he retired nine of the 10 hitters he faced. All told, he crossed the 100-pitch mark for the third straight game, and he’s now averaging over 97 pitches per start. In those last three starts, Cain has cut his ERA from 7.84 down to 5.37, and his WHIP from 1.710 down to 1.462.

Individual pitcher wins are a flawed statistic, and certainly don’t tell the whole story. But for a pitcher like Cain, who has been through a lot in the past couple of years, to pitch well and earn the win, it’s no small thing.

2 – Weird Lineup? No Problem.

The Giants and Bruce Bochy have employed some unusual lineups before, and Saturday’s configuration can definitely go on that list. First baseman Brandon Belt, left fielder Angel Pagan, and right fielder Hunter Pence were all out of the lineup, with the latter two dealing with minor hamstring troubles. Backup infielder Kelby Tomlinson was playing left field for the first time in his professional career, and batting third for the first time as a major leaguer. Trevor Brown was catching and hitting sixth, and slumping Matt Duffy was hitting fifth.

On paper, that lineup shouldn’t exactly strike fear in opposing pitchers. But the game isn’t played on paper, and that makeshift lineup got the job done against Jon Lester, who entered the matchup with some of the best numbers in the National League. The Giants got some two-out thunder going in the second inning, when Brandon Crawford singled, Gregor Blanco walked, and Matt Cain doubled them both home. It was Cain’s first hit in 46 at-bats, dating back more than two years ago.

In the third inning, Joe Panik led off with a double. Tomlinson followed with a sacrifice bunt, and Buster Posey crushed a cutter that stayed in the middle of the plate for a two-run home run. Duffy followed with a single, stole second base, and scored on a Trevor Brown hit.

Weird? Sure. Effective? You betcha.

3 – Joel and the Shadows

That Fox broadcast was pretty bad, eh? It was almost like watching the weather channel, as Erik Karros went on and on about the shadows that were created by the high, late afternoon sun. His broadcast partner, Matt Vasgersian, also referred to Giants’ reliever Josh Osich as “Joel” at least three times. Don’t worry, things will get better on Sunday. Oh, it’s on ESPN? Maybe not.

Next: Giants Morning Minute: Bullpen Finally Gets Work

That’ll do it for this edition of the Giants Morning Minute. Next up, the Giants and Cubs finish their three-game series with a primetime matchup on Sunday. San Francisco will send their ace Madison Bumgarner, with his 2.45 ERA and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings, to the mound, while the Cubs counter with Kyle Hendricks.