NEW YORK – No matter what the Giants do to improve their roster this winter, no matter how much they splurge or save, no matter if their maneuvers are applauded or reviled by their fans, this much will hold true:
They’ll need serious bounce-back seasons from a couple of their returning players. And nobody needs to land on feline paws more than Matt Cain.
So on a night when the Giants let down in the ninth and lost their 82nd game, guaranteeing them their first losing season since 2008, here’s a bit of good news:
Cain is already back on his feet.
He has a 2.34 ERA since the break. He would've evened his record Wednesday night after holding the New York Mets to an unearned run in 7 2/3 innings, but remained stuck at 8-9 after the Giants gave up four in the ninth in a 5-4 loss at Citi Field.
Cain has given up three runs or fewer in 11 consecutive starts. Even that line drive off his arm last month, which sent him to the disabled list for the first time in his career, couldn’t derail his second-half momentum.
“I wasn’t going to shut it down because earlier, things weren’t going great,” said Cain, who had a 5.45 ERA on June 1. “You’ll go through that rough patch in your career.”
Back on May 16, Cain had allowed a major league-most 13 home runs over his first nine starts. But he fixed the issue, his two-seamer started running back onto the black and he’s allowed just eight home runs over his last 20 starts.
With possibly two more starts remaining, Cain has allowed the same number of home runs (21) as he did last season.
His other rate stats are within their usual ranges, too. He is striking out batters at exactly the same rate and opponents are hitting just a couple points higher against him.
Cain can’t point to any great revelation that caused the cylinders to click.
“Sometimes that happens,” he said. “You’ll make crappy pitches and they’ll get popped up, too. You don’t know the reason for it. It just happens.”
Cain never gets too deep inside his own head. Maybe that’s why he was able to engineer a much better second half. He trusted in his own ability to stick to his strengths, adjust where needed and keep firing pitches.
“It’s not the way we want to end the year, but you’ve got to play out the season,” Cain said. “You’ve got to see it to the finish.”