ANAHEIM Turns out Matt Cain wasnt so perfect last weekafter all.
He took a shot to the left wrist while gutting out a win inthe Giants 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday, and whenreporters asked where the ball struck him, he pointed just below an ugly redwelt.
No, not that, Cain said. Thats a waffle burn.
Buster saw it and was, Jeez! Cain continued. I said no,thats a waffle burn. I was reaching for something else. I found out the waffleiron was on and its hot.
OK, fine. Cain can get a bit Affeldtian in the kitchen. Don't trust him to prepare your yolks just so on your Eggs Benedict.
But on the mound? Even on a night when he was far fromperfect, he still found a way to elevate his game at precisely the rightmoments.
Cain walked four and allowed six hits in five innings, yethe held a havoc-wreaking lineup to three runs. To accomplish that, he needed toexecute a pitch against career nemesis Albert Pujols with the bases loaded inthe fourth inning. He needed to make a play on a one-hop piece of shrapnel hitback to the mound. And he needed to fight to his very last pitch to coax hisway through the fifth.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy could tell from the outset thatCain didnt have it. Theright-hander had thrown 125 high-stress pitches in Wednesdays historic perfectgame the most ever thrown in a perfecto and he was giving it everything hehad in the ninth while hitting 94 mph on the last pitch.
Im sure he was feeling the residuals from his last start.He had to, Bochy said. Every pitch, its all on the line. I was justsurprised in this game, the gutty effort he gave us.
Oh, I knew early. He was missing spots. But he competes sowell.
Cain didnt cop to a perfect-game hangover or fatigue asmuch as a residual buzz from what hed accomplished.
I was probably a little amped up from it, maybe try to keepit going in a way, said Cain, who threw 100 pitches in five innings. I was alittle energized in general. The whole time I was pitching perhaps higher up ingeneral.
It was definitely a grind-it-out day. A lot of theirswitch-hitter guys were finding holes. I was working on keeping those guyssemi-close at first base. You just try to keep it all in order.
He did, barely. With the Giants clinging to a 4-3 lead,Shane Loux began warming up before Cain issued a leadoff walk to Kendry Moralesin the fifth. Then Cain went 3-0 to Mark Trumbo, who had hit a solo homerearlier in the game.
Hes a pitch away from coming out there, Bochy said. Ifhed have walked him, I wouldve gotten him.
But Cain darted two fastballs for a called strike and afoul. Then he froze Trumbo with a curveball. He retired the next two hitters toget the Giants back in the dugout.
Just like that, Cain qualified for the victory. The Giantsbullpen made sure he got it, too, by taking their own perfect turn. Loux,Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla went 12 up, 12 down.
Just like that, Cain became the first Giant to win eightconsecutive starts since Rick Big Daddy Reuschel in 1989.
Reuschel started the NL All-Star game that year. Cain is makinga case to draw the assignment for the NL this season, although the Mets R.A.Dickey has the league all aflutter with his knuckleball.
Cain wouldnt have won without winning a bases-loaded confrontationwith Pujols, who entered the game with serious career ownage against theright-hander. His first two curveballs missed, but he put a slider on Pujolshands for a foul ball. Then he might have gotten away with a 2-1 curve that gotmore of the plate than Cain wanted. Pujols grounded into a fielders choice.
He has that ability to make a pitch and not give in, Bochysaid. Hes got four pitches and hell throw any pitch at any time. The gameson the line there and he showed great poise. He got it done.
He also showed poise in the fourth after Angels rookiephenom Mike Trout hit his bullet back to the mound. Cain deflected it with hisglove hand, picked it up without hesitation and threw a firm one to BusterPosey for a tag play at the plate.
After the game, Cain dutifully took every question from thenational media about everything from his perfect game to his new Samurai swordto what on Gods sweet earth was going through his mind when he let Affeldthold it.
It might not surprise you, but he was most effusive whenasked about the bullpen.
I was pumped by those guys, coming in and finishing off thegame for me, Cain said. They got 1-2-3 innings when I wasnt able to do that.Its very helpful down the road. Its never good when you start a series andyour starter comes out after five innings.
Five imperfect innings. With the same, winning result.