MILWAUKEE -- Matt Cain has all the video he wants. He has a pitching coach, Dave Righetti, who has watched him since he was a 20-year-old pup. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner has been there from the start, too.
But sometimes, when a seasoned rotation struggles, there is no substitute for peer counseling. And the Giants’ starting five, owners of a collective 5.07 ERA, are looking to each other for answers.
“You definitely talk,” said Cain, after serving up three home runs in a 7-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. “I head Vogey say something (along these lines), too. Sometimes you do wait for a guy to come up and ask questions. You don’t want to step on toes. That’s what Rags and Gardy are here for. But we’ve seen each other enough. We see little things when we’re going good or bad. We’re all trying to help and we have a great relationship.
[RECAP: Brewers 7, Giants 2]
“So it’s never going to offend me if someone comes up and says, 'Hey, it looks like this or it looks like that.'”
It’s not looking good, that’s for sure. The Giants usually have a winning record because of their rotation. Just 16 games into the season, they have a winning record in spite of it.
Cain allowed five home runs over his two starts on this road trip, and that’s after he matched a franchise record with a nine-run inning in his last home assignment.
He allowed three two-run home runs – one in each of the first three innings – and his cookies came in a variety pack: A slider he hung to Ryan Braun, a first-pitch fastball that ran back over the plate to Yovani Gallardo and a 2-2 curve that floated onto the barrel of Jonathan Lucroy’s bat.
The Lucroy homer appeared to bother Cain most of all, given his reaction on the mound.
“I was ahead in the count,” Cain said. “It’s just not making a pitch. In my mind, at worst I’ll bounce it and it’s (3-2). But I threw a pitch that’s pretty much … just sitting there.”
Why are they sitting there? Why is his stuff running back over the middle? Why are the Giants suddenly 0-4 behind a pitcher who took the mound in all three postseason clinching victories last October?
There are obvious places for conjecture – all of which Cain swiftly rejected.
“I don’t think a short offseason or a long spring training … that has nothing to do with it,” he said. “I think all of the guys we have are in great shape. So that can be thrown out the window.”
Cain’s velocity wasn’t dropping to red-flag levels. He isn’t covered in ice after games. There’s no apparent injury or physical limitation.
The most consistent Giant said he just hasn’t been consistent.
“I’m not really repeating the delivery,” said Cain, who is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA. “I’ve got to find a way to do a better job of that and go from there. Just keep taking small steps and do the right things.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he’s seeing the same thing.
“Just mistakes,” Bochy said. “That’s the only common thread. In the strike zone, in this ballpark, it’s hard to get away with them. Sometimes you’ll hit a good pitch out but it’s usually the mistakes (that hurt you) and it seemed every one we made they took advantage.”
Bochy pointed out that Ryan Vogelsong (1-1, 5.89 ERA) delivered a quality start on Wednesday and Barry Zito (2-1. 4.86) had a rough one Tuesday after tossing shutout ball in his first two.
Tim Lincecum’s 5.63 ERA is good enough to rank in the middle of the pack in this rotation.
At least Madison Bumgarner (3-0, 1.77) has been consistent, and it’ll be up to him to get the rotation pointed in a better direction when they open a homestand Friday night against the Padres with the Diamondbacks to follow.
It’s always a tonic for pitchers to come back to AT&T Park.
“Well hopefully that’s the case,” Bochy said. “We know how good these guys are. They’ll get back on track.”