Matt Cain should anchor SF Giants in postseason

Getty Images File PhotoGiants pitcher Matt Cain

Manager Bruce Bochy’s decision-making will be vital to the Giants’ chances in the playoffs.

That starts with his decisions on starting pitching because, except for Matt Cain, the starters have all had woeful periods. Cain had his own mini-slump, but he’s come out of it and, given decent run support for the first time in his Giants career, he’s won 15 games, one of them a perfect game. It’s a no-brainer to say he should pitch the first game.

Tim Lincecum had a dreadful first half of the season, but has picked up his game in the second half. Madison Bumgarner was lights out for a time, but he hasn’t pitched well lately. Ryan Vogelsong, the feel-good story of last season, has fallen off the cliff. Barry Zito has had his best season as a Giant, which is truly damning with faint praise.

Zito has had his first winning season in a San Francisco uniform, but he’s been inconsistent, occasionally brilliant, occasionally awful.

I think Bochy should tap Lincecum for the No. 2 slot in the rotation, though that gives him two straight right-handers, a consideration in the season, but not important in the postseason. Lincecum seems to have his confidence back and he was so good in the 2010 postseason, it seems reasonable to give him another shot.

In the postseason, with the off days, a team can go with three starters, and Bumgarner should be the third. He proved in 2010 that pressure doesn’t bother him, and his unorthodox pitching style is especially effective against hitters who haven’t seen much of him, which will be true in the postseason.

Vogelsong’s problems are puzzling, to him and everybody else, but the playoffs are no place to work them out. He might have a role in long relief, but not as a starter.

And please, let’s not see Zito out there. Who knows what to expect? In his last two games for the A’s, Zito pitched very well in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Twins, giving up just one run in eight innings to seal the A’s win. His next game was against the Detroit Tigers at the Coliseum, a game I saw. For the first three innings, it was three-up and three-down for the Tigers — because the game started while the sun was in the hitters’ eyes. Then, the sun went down and it became batting practice. Zito got only two outs before being removed, with the Tigers getting seven hits and five runs.

If Zito were to pitch in this postseason, I think that second game is more likely what we’d see from him.

Whoever pitches, Buster Posey should catch him. Enough with this nonsense that Lincecum prefers Hector Sanchez. The Giants are a stronger team, defensively and offensively, with Posey behind the plate and Brandon Belt at first. Belt has been hitting better in recent weeks, and with more power, and he’s almost as good defensively as J.T. Snow.

Marco Scutaro has been a great pickup at second, but Brandon Crawford, whose fielding is of Gold Glove quality, should stay at shortstop, with supersub Joaquin Arias behind him.

And, let the fun begin!

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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