SAN FRANCISCO -- The last time Matt Cain threw the shortest outing of his career, his team was there to pick him up. On Wednesday, the remaining 24 players on the active roster looked lifeless to help their struggling teammate as the Giants suffered a 7-2 loss and a home sweep at the hands of the New York Mets.
Four years ago Thursday -- one day after Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres -- Cain started against San Diego and was forced to leave when he was struck by a line drive after 1 2/3 innings pitched. He threw 35 pitches that day, but the Giants won on the power of a two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval was the only position player in the lineup that day to take the field for the Giants Wednesday, when Cain threw one more pitch, but managed three fewer outs in his lowest point as a professional baseball player.
"This is probably the worst that I've seen in all the years that I've been here," Cain said.
Reiterate his health as much as you like, but when Matt Cain completes a total of three innings over two combined starts, the speculation that something is not right with the typically consistent right-hander will run wild. But both manager Bruce Bochy and Cain were staunch in their affirmation that the Giants' "horse" is healthy.
"That's why I took him out, I didn't want it to become a health issue," Bochy said. "I was being cautious. We stretched him out pretty good last outing. He's fine."
No matter how his arm is feeling, that he's allowed more earned runs than he has recorded outs over his past two starts will tell you he's anything but fine.
Bochy said he spoke with Cain and head athletic trainer David Groeschner after the game just to be sure that health was not an issue at all. Ask Cain, and it was a simple matter of command.
"I wasn't throwing strikes," Cain said matter-of-factly. "I was walking guys. … That was it."
Cain, who said he felt normal after his pregame bullpen session and was surprised to see bullpen action four batters into the game, doesn't have another start before the All-Star break. It'll give him eight days off before he is expected to take the mound against the first-place Diamondbacks to start the unofficial second half of the season.
"To have an outing like that is really disappointing and hard to swallow," Cain said. "But we've got to get over it."
It's not just the starting pitchers that need to get out of their funk, as the Giants have tallied exactly one victory by a starting pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner in their last 29 games. Every facet of the game is giving the team trouble.
"All of it," Cain said. "It seems like everything is going wrong. We're not pitching, we're not fielding, we're not getting hits. And it's showing."
The Giants, who have been baseball's worst team since May 14, are in a tailspin that has seen them fall in 14 of the last 16 games.
"This was an awful homestand," Bochy said. "Today we couldn't get anything going, couldn't get the energy going or the fans into it. We got shut down."
Forefront in keeping the Giants lifeless was the team's one-time top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Wheeler made his fifth MLB start against the team that made him the sixth overall pick in 2009, throwing a career-high seven innings while allowing one earned run on three hits, three walks and five strikeouts.
"It felt good," Wheeler said. "I was really looking forward to it and I think I told the guys earlier that I really want to do well here. I was able to do that and it feels pretty good. ... I got drafted by the Giants and obviously I wanted to pitch here. It's definitely a pitcher-friendly park. I was lucky enough to get traded, I am in a good situation (with the Mets), and I'm happy enough where I am at."
Giants fans aren't happy about where Wheeler currently is, or the location of Carlos Beltran -- who he netted in the 2011 trade. One is showing he has a future atop MLB rotations and the other is set to start in his eighth All-Star Game -- neither plays for the last-place Giants, who could desperately use a stud starter and an All-Star outfielder.
The 1-5 homestand dropped San Francisco to seven games out of first place in the NL West (before the Diamondbacks' game Wednesday night). And while it felt like there was no hope in Mudville at AT&T Park Wednesday, the manager is clinging to a catchphrase of years past.
"We're in this thing," Bochy said, despite the struggles.
"That will to win, it's there. We've got to take the bull by the horns, here, and get this thing going."
The Giants boarded buses for the first half-closing, four-game set in San Diego immediately following Wednesday's loss. In this case, they've got to take the Swinging Friar by the hooded cloak, and they have the right man to do it starting Game 1 in All-Star Madison Bumgarner (9-5, 3.05 ERA).