The Giants anticipate better days ahead for Matt Cain. Day 1, they hope, was just about knocking the rust off.
On an MLB mound for the first time in 51 weeks, Cain gave up five runs — four on homers — in a 5-4 loss to the Miami Marlins that handed the Giants a very disappointing sweep. Cain took a 3-1 lead into the fifth but gave up a solo homer to opposing pitcher Jose Fernandez and a game-changing three-run blast to Justin Bour.
“I thought he was throwing the ball well. In the fifth, he just made some mistakes,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was just trying to throw a strike there to Fernandez. The pitch to Bour just got away from him. He just made some mistakes there in that last inning. I don’t know if stamina caught up to him.”
Cain said he felt fine physically and he wanted to go back out for the sixth. Bochy called the comeback start off after five, and Cain took a rough line in his first start since last July 9: 5 innings, 5 runs, 7 hits, 4 walks. Still, Bochy said Cain -- who missed time with bone chips in his elbow and a right flexor strain -- should “be encouraged.”
“The first four innings there, I thought he was pretty good,” Bochy said. “He’s only going to get better building his strength and stamina up. It was effortless, felt great. Even after the fifth he said, 'I feel fine.' He wanted to go back out. I thought he was throwing free and easy.”
[Instant Replay: Giants lose to long ball again, swept by Marlins]
Cain took a lead into the fifth but made a mistake to Fernandez, who was making pitchers pay even before having Tommy John surgery last May. The second mistake was a fastball to Bour that was crushed to right, but Cain said he didn’t miss his spot. He was trying to throw a heater in on Bour’s hands.
“It was in,” Cain said. “He hit it.”
Cain threw 89 pitches in his return and said he’s looking forward to getting deeper into games. It was only late in his rehab assignment that he started to approach 100 pitches. The velocity — 91, 92 mph — was in line with his rehab assignment, Cain said.
“I’ve been usually sitting right around there,” Cain said. “If that progresses with getting more innings in, that’s great. It feels comfortable now.”
Fernandez won’t need any more innings to build his strength. He hit 99 mph in the first inning Thursday and gave up three runs over six innings. There was a time last spring when Fernandez looked like the best bet to challenge Clayton Kershaw for future Cy Young Awards. He was robbed of a year, but not his talent, as he showed Thursday.
“You don’t expect to score a lot of runs off him,” Bochy said. “He looks healthy, I’ll say that. He was throwing the ball very well.”