A gem by Matt Cain in his first start at AT&T Park in nearly a year. A big night by Hunter Pence in his return to the lineup after more than a month. That’s what it took for the Giants to finally get out of their extended funk on Tuesday.
The Giants blanked the New York Mets 3-0 to snap a streak of seven straight losses.
“To have him in the lineup, I think meant a lot for all of the guys,” manager Bruce Bochy said when asked about Pence’s impact. “He plays with fire. He plays with energy and that stuff’s contagious.”
Before the game, Bochy half-jokingly hoped Cain would go seven innings. Instead, the skipper had to settle for six frames of shutout ball. The Horse allowed just two hits and struck out seven.
“[That’s a] great effort he gave us,” Bochy said. “He looked good. He had good stuff. So, it was good to see him throw the ball well.”
The vintage outing from Cain was an encouraging sign for the Giants —even if it came against an inept Mets offense which was second-to-last in batting average and third-to last in runs in the league.
The Giants are in desperate need of a No. 2 starter to slot into the rotation behind Madison Bumgarner. In his home debut, Cain looked liked a pitcher who just might be up to that task.
Cain wouldn’t have escaped unscathed if not for the glove and arm of Pence. After Curtis Granderson led off the sixth inning with a triple, Ruben Tejada stepped to the plate and lofted what appeared to be a sacrifice fly down the right field line. Pence raced into the bullpen and made a sprawling catch before popping to his feet and uncorking a rocket that nabbed the sliding Granderson at the plate.
“With how fast he had to get up and get rid of it, he put it right on the money for [Andrew] Susac,” Bochy said. “It’s one of the best plays I’ve seen — the whole play.”
For his part, Pence called the play a “miracle” and offered praise for his teammate.
“Susac made a ridiculous catch and tag. That’s the special part of the play,” Pence said. ”And when I saw that and when I saw the umpire call him out, it was a pretty good feeling, especially behind of how magnificent Cain had been throwing.”
Pence, who had been out since June 2 while recovering from left wrist tendinitis, also drove in two of the club’s three runs.
Initially, Pence wasn’t supposed to be back in the lineup until after the All-Star Break, but his return was pushed up after he was cleared
by the team’s doctors. As Bochy explained before the game, the move was also made in part because the reeling team was searching for a spark.
“We need some help,” Bochy said. “Right now, we’re struggling. It’s not like we’re taking away a big bat by playing him here. I think his presence means a lot.”
Help is exactly what Pence provided, but Bochy also recognized that there is some danger in accelerating the veteran’s recovery timetable, as it could lead him to reaggravate his wrist injury.
“We probably would take a little bit more time before we put him in there,” Bochy said. “But again, I think you see where you’re at, how we’re doing, how his replacements are doing. That plays a part.”