SAN FRANCISCO – Matt Cain wasn’t the only ace who got flipped on Sunday.
The St. Louis Cardinals might have equaled Cain’s career high by tagging him for nine earned runs – and doing it in the span of one inning, too. But Justin Verlander, R.A. Dickey, David Price and Stephen Strasburg got cuffed around as well.
“Just in talking to other guys, baseball has a way of humbling you,” said Cain, who couldn’t find his way to the dugout in the fourth inning of a 14-3 loss at AT&T Park. “You can be going along great and it’ll set you straight for some reason. The baseball gods find a way to even things out.”
Cain still came out ahead. A World Series ring tends to keep you on the plus side.
The Giants ran into a hot lineup over the past two days, as the Cardinals combined to go 16 for 24 with runners in scoring position. They combined for 14 runs against Cain and Ryan Vogelsong to capture the three-game series.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s summary of Sunday’s series finale:
“They rained on our parade a little bit,” he said.
It probably wasn’t an intentional reference to Game 7 of the NLCS, when the Giants clinched over the Cardinals in a rainstorm so heavy it’d get Noah to hammering. The skies were clear and bright Sunday, allowing all those diamonds to gleam and glisten.
Funny how picking up a World Series ring allows you to put a bad inning in perspective. Cain retired the first nine batters on just 30 pitches. But the second time through the order, the Cardinals were 6 for 7 – six singles and a ground-rule double – with the outs coming via sacrifice fly and a popped up sacrifice bunt.
The Cardinals kept it going, too. Cain nearly escaped the inning trailing just 5-3, but he didn’t get the call on a close 2-2 pitch to Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded. The next pitch resulted in a two-run single, and Jose Mijares allowed his two inherited runners to score.
“He just couldn’t get out of that inning,” Bochy said of Cain. “He was throwing the ball well but it got up a little bit. It was just one of those innings where they couldn’t stop the bleeding. I can’t say there was anything different he was doing. They just threw out some pretty good at-bats.”
Cain said he didn’t feel he was tipping any pitches, but couldn’t rule it out. Perhaps the Cardinals gained some wisdom from hitting assistant Bengie Molina, who has caught Cain more than anyone else (96 games and 622 2/3 innings; Buster Posey is next with 59 games and just more than 390 innings).
Molina did tell his new pupils how the Giants’ pitching philosophy works in this ballpark: Keep it away from right-handed hitters and let the dimensions work for you.
But mostly, it was a lot of tough at-bats and many more pitches catching the plate.
“He was missing on the plate more than he usually does and falling behind in counts, and they put some good swings on it, too,” Posey said.
Chad Gaudin threw three scoreless innings, perhaps saving the Giants from having to make a roster move ahead of their three-game series with Colorado that begins on Monday.
Other than spacing out the relief workload, from the way Cain and others reacted in the postgame clubhouse, it sure didn’t seem like this loss will have any lingering effect.
“I wish for myself and the rest of the guys I had done better and kept the excitement going,” Cain said. “But we’ve got a lot more games and we’ll try to remember this as a good day.”
The Giants were thrilled with the mostly white gold rings, which feature 52 melee diamonds in an interlocking SF logo framed in yellow gold and seven diamonds on each side to symbolize the franchise’s seven World Series championships. There’s a cable car with each player’s name and uniform number on one side, and the results of each playoff series – including the sweep over the Detroit Tigers – on the other.
[PHOTO GALLERY: Giants receive 2012 World Series rings]
“Some guys had tears in their eyes,” Bochy said. “They were looking forward to this and hopefully they’ll wash this off and not let it dampen anything for them.”
Hunter Pence said he wasn’t expecting the day to be so emotional.
“And then it actually happened,” he said. “In the long run, we’ll remember the day. We’ve got a lot of baseball to play.”
Bochy and Cain were asked if it would be easier to focus on baseball and get in a routine now that there’s a night game on the schedule Monday and no more pregame ceremonies to interrupt batting practice. Sure, they said.
“You have to enjoy all this, though,” Cain said. “The city has been waiting for this. You’ve got to take it all in.”
And then you take it home, to have and to hold.
“It’s original. It’s own,” Cain said. “They did a great job making it personal. You cherish it down the road, thinking about the guys you played with, everything that happened. That’s what I’ll think about.”