MILWAUKEE – How did the Giants win a World Series last season despite hitting the fewest home runs in the majors?
Well, here’s one reason: Their pitching staff suppressed them.
But now all kinds of gopher holes are sprouting up in their lawn, and even their Opening-Day ace is stepping in them. Matt Cain served up a two-run home run to the Milwaukee Brewers in each of the first three innings, effectively burying the Giants as they got swept out of Miller Park with a 7-2 loss Thursday afternoon.
The Cubs and Brewers combined to out-homer the Giants 15-3. Pretty incredible, then, that Bruce Bochy’s club was able to go 3-4 on the trip.
Cain gave up five of those homers over his two starts. Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum gave up two each. George Kontos, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Romo and Madison Bumgarner were touched for one.
Come to think of it, it might’ve been easier to list the Giants pitchers who didn’t give one up.
Starting pitching report
Cain’s cookies came in a variety pack. Ryan Braun hit a hanging slider in the first inning, pitcher Yovani Gallardo jumped on a first-pitch fastball in the second and Matt Lucroy barreled up a loopy curveball in the third.
Pitchers never like to give up home runs to pitchers, but Gallardo’s shot was the 11th of his career. Cain (0-2) had a much more visible reaction after the curveball to Lucroy, when he bent at the waist and appeared to curse himself. It was just the sixth time in 239 career starts that Cain allowed at least three homers.
The Giants are now 0-4 in Cain’s starts, and no, they didn’t lose four consecutive times with him on the mound all of last season – or in 2011, either. It hadn’t happened since June 24 to July 9, 2010.
Cain’s velocity is not down and he has 20 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings, so there’s nothing obviously wrong. He recovered well enough to retire 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. But the way the rotation is pitching, there’s little consolation the Giants can take from that.
The starting staff has a 5.07 ERA through 16 games.
Javier Lopez’s struggles continued as he allowed a leadoff double to Norichika Aoki in the seventh inning. But Jean Machi proved silent and deadly while retiring two hitters.
At the plate
Sure, the Giants should hit more home runs this year. But not at the pace in which they're giving them up. Hunter Pence’s dramatic homer against the Cubs was the Giants’ only longball in the series at Wrigley Field, and Brandon Crawford owned both of their homers in three games at Miller Park.
With his laser shot over the right field wall in the ninth, Crawford now has more career homers in 35 plate appearances at Miller Park (three) than he does in 369 plate appearances at AT&T Park (two).
Crawford stayed hot while moving up to the No.5 spot, all right. He also singled and doubled in his first two at-bats, both with two strikes. He’s now hitting an astounding .393 in two-strike counts.
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The rest of the Giants combined for just one other extra-base hit, though – and that was a double that belonged to Guillermo Quiroz after someone found a feather duster and a can of Pledge so he could pinch hit in the seventh inning.
Brandon Belt’s sacrifice fly was the only scratch against Gallardo, who made his start despite his arrest early Tuesday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence. Police said Gallardo blew a 0.22 BAC – almost three times the legal limit.
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura completed an unassisted double play in an odd fashion to end the fifth inning. With Angel Pagan running from first base, Segura leaped to snag Gregor Blanco’s line drive. Rather than throw to first base, Segura took it himself and stepped on first base as he jogged back to the dugout.
Cain did get a bad break in the second inning, when umpires ruled that Carlos Gomez was hit by a pitch even though it sounded like it hit the knob of his bat as it deflected hard into fair territory. Replays showed that plate ump Jerry Meals blew the call, and Gomez went on to score on Yuniesky Betancourt’s single.
The Brewers announced 29,161 paid. An umbrella-free ballpark in the upper Midwest is a beautiful thing.
The Giants head home for six games against the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. They’ll send their lone solid starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner (3-0, 1.77), to face San Diego right-hander Edinson Volquez (0-3,11.68) on Friday. Then it’s Tim Lincecum (1-0, 5.63) against left-hander Clayton Richard (0-1, 5.28) on Saturday and Barry Zito (2-1, 4.86) against left-hander Eric Stults (2-1. 3.94) on Sunday.