LOS ANGELES How to describe a season that includes anAll-Star Game start, a career-best 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts, a five-yearextension worth a guaranteed 112.5 million and lest anyone forget, the firstperfect game in the Giants 129-year existence?
Its a good overall season, but its not something I wantto be sitting on, Matt Cain said Monday night. I want a good bit of starts inthe postseason.
Cain will set the tone for what the Giants hope will beanother deep and memorable run. Hell take the mound for the NL West championsin Game 1 of an NL Division Series, now assuredly to take place Saturday atAT&T Park.
Cain will face either the Washington Nationals or CincinnatiReds; he was 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA in two starts against the Reds, although hepitched into the seventh inning both times. Cain also lost in his lone startagainst the Nationals this season, giving up three runs in 6 23 innings of aroad start July 5.
Hes inheriting a role that belonged to Tim Lincecum in allthree playoff rounds two seasons ago.
Im excited about it, said Cain, who didnt allow anearned run over three playoff starts in 2010. I want to start my routinetomorrow and get ready for Saturdays game. Not add anything else to it. Justfind out whoever were going to face and start thinking about them.
Cain did not skip ahead in his preparation for his finalregular-season start on Monday. He always takes great pride in beating theDodgers, who denied him a victory in his first 14 career starts against them.He was visibly irritated after giving up a two-run home run to Andre Ethier ona first-pitch changeup in the fourth inning.
I felt good and I made one really bad pitch, a hangingchangeup to Ethier, Cain said. Ive got to remember how that felt wrong andnot repeat that again in my next start.
Cain was on a 75-pitch limit. He exited trailing 2-1 afterfive innings and 68 pitches.
That was enough work for him, Bochy said.
The Giants rallied to tie on Marco Scutaros single in theeighth, keeping Cain from a tough loss and ensuring he would finish the seasonwith a 16-5 record. Hes also unbeaten in his last nine outings, and might bethe only Giants starting pitcher who enters the playoffs with a true head ofsteam.
Cain entered the season with a 69-73 record despite a solidsix-year career. Hes no longer a sub-.500 pitcher.
It was good, really good, he said, of his season as awhole. I felt I was consistent. I got in a good routine and stayed with it.Buster (Posey) and I got in a really good rhythm and Hector (Sanchez), when hecaught me, he did a good job too.
Cain wouldve liked to add one more victory to knock out theDodgers. Hell have to settle for a glance at the standings, and a reminderthat the Giants once trailed by 7 games in the NL West.
We put ourselves in a bad spot at the beginning of theseason, and they started out hot, Cain said. But we felt if we playedconsistent ball, we had a shot at chasing those guys down and thats how itworked out.
The Giants werent 100 percent assured the No. 3 seed in theplayoff picture until Atlanta lost to the Pirates on Monday.
Yes, Atlanta. Its a bit convoluted, but entering Monday,there was a scenario in which the Braves, Nationals, Reds and Giants all couldhave finished with identical 96-66 records. It wouldve required the Braves andGiants sweeping their series and the Nats and Reds both getting swept intheirs.
In that scenario, the Braves and Nats wouldve had to play aone-game playoff for the NL East title, with the loser going to the wild cardgame. If the Braves had won that game, the Reds wouldve been the top seed andthe Giants, because they won their season series with Atlanta, wouldve beenthe second seed.
Once Atlanta lost, that scenario disappeared. The Nationals areyour NL East champions.
And therefore the Giants are guaranteed to play host toGame 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Sunday.
They will get the No. 2 seed, of course and thats still upin the air. The Reds and Nationals have identical records with two to play. (The Nats ostensibly hold a one-game edge, since they beatthe Reds in their season series and hold the tiebreaker.)
The only way wellget clarity on Tuesday is if the Nats win and the Reds lose. Then itll beCincinnati in the first round for sure. Any other result on Tuesday, and wellhave to wait until the 162nd game is in the books on Wednesday toknow for certain.
This becomes a lot more fun, by the way, when youre a beat reporter whohas to book flights.
A lot of folks are asking about game times for this weekend, and for good reason. You've got Stanford playing a home game against Arizona at noon on Saturday and Cal hosting UCLA at 7 p.m. The 49ers have a home game against Buffalo at 1:25 p.m. on Sunday. And who knows where the A's will fit into that wild playoff picture in the AL, which they're definitely in now.
Then you've got Fleet Week with the perennially popular Blue Angels, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park and I'm sure there's a quilting expo somewhere, too. At least Apple already unveiled the iPhone 5.
I'll let you know game times as soon as I get them. Whenever they schedule the first pitch, make sure to leave early, pack plenty of patience and carpool or take public transportation if you can.