Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central's OctoberQuest at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. We'll take you all the way up to first pitch at 5:07 p.m. with all the pregame news, stats, updates and analysis. It's Game 4 of the World Series!
DETROIT Matt Cain takes the mound for the Giants in Game 4of the World Series Sunday night, and central casting couldnt have found amore suitable man for this assignment.
Cain has done all right in these clinching games thispostseason, if you havent noticed. He started and won Game 5 of the NLDS inCincinnati and Game 7 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
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It will be a much different tenor at chilly Comerica Park, though. Its not a winner-take-all game.Far from it. The Giants are comfortably ahead and looking to complete a World Series sweep somethingthey havent done since that iconic 1954 series over the Cleveland Indians thatincluded Willie Mays indelible basket catch.
But dont expect any letdown from Cain, whose competitiongoes beyond a Detroit Tigers lineup capable of hurting him with the home runball at any time.
Cain is also locked in friendly competition with hisrotation mates, who have held the Tigers to a grand sum of one run over theirfirst three starts something that no major league team has done since the NewYork Giants Christy Mathewson and Iron Man Bill McGinnity in 1905.
Incredibly, Giants starters are 6-0 with a 0.47 ERA overtheir last six games. That helps explain how they havent trailed in 54consecutive innings a streak that began with Game 5 of the NLCS. Theyve ledat the conclusion of 44 of those innings.
And the Tigers havent even seen Cain the guy who threw aperfect game in June, received the honor to start the All-Star Game for theNational League in July and has been the Giants most consistent winner allseason.
Weve carried over what we had done in the last coupleseries into this series, and thats good, Cain said. Our guys are having funand were relaxed and focused on what we need to do. We know those guys on theother side are doing the same thing. Theyre going to be gunning for us.
Cain might be a better matchup for the Tigers because hesbeen a bit home run prone in the postseason. He allowed four homers over hisfirst three playoff starts, and although he held the Cards scoreless in hisfinal NLCS outing, it was apparent he had trouble keeping his fastball belowthe belt.
Giants officials privately worried about Cains heavyworkload, which stands at 242 13 innings especially after he threw 244 23innings in 2010. Cain is making his fifth postseason start; he made just threeduring the Giants run to the World Series title two seasons ago.
Thats one of the reasons that Giants manager Bruce Bochydidnt move Cain up to third in the World Series rotation. In a concession toRyan Vogelsongs crisper stuff, and the desire to get Cain one extra day ofrest, the Giants stayed with Vogelsong in Game 3.
The consequence: Itd be Vogelsong, not Cain, in a possibleGame 7. But Cain said he didnt bristle at being limited to one World Seriesstart.
No, I mean, I was going to take the ball whenever theywanted me to take it, and thats always been my way, Cain said. Whenever theywant me to pitch, Im going to take it. Take the ball, go out there and try tofind a way to win.
Itll start by keeping Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder inthe ballpark something the Giants have done extremely well while holding thetwin titans in the Tigers lineup to 3 for 17 with no extra-base hits and thesame number of RBI (one) that Barry Zito has in this series.
Cabrera is 1 for 6 against Cain, with a home run for hisonly hit. Fielder is a .278 hitter (5 for 18) with a couple of doubles but nohome runs. Omar Infante is the only other Tigers player with much experienceagainst Cain; hes also 5 for 18, all singles, and two strikeouts.
Itll be hard for Cain to match strikeouts with right-handerMax Scherzer, who finished second in that category among AL pitchers toteammate Justin Verlander. Itll be up to Scherzer to put this series inVerlanders hands for Game 5.
Scherzer has missed plenty of bats this postseason, strikingout 18 in just 11 innings. But surprise surprise, Marco Scutaro has just onestrikeout against him while going 4 for 9 in his career.
The Giants would do well to think back to July 2 of lastyear, when they faced Scherzer in an interleague game at Comerica Park andbattered him in a five-run first inning. Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run shot inthat game and Brandon Crawford followed with a three-run homer as the Giantswon in a 15-3 rout.
Scherzer has been a different pitcher this season,especially in the second half. He was 11-3 with a 2.53 ERA over his last 19starts, including 143 strikeouts in 117 13 innings. He credited an adjustmentwith his fastball that makes him able to locate it inside against left-handedhitters and away to right-handers. (Hes been especially tough on right-handedhitters, holding them to a .201 average vs. .292 against lefties.)
Once Im able to drive my fastball to the glove side, firstbase side for you guys, it sets up all my other pitches my slider, mychangeup, Scherzer said. Thats why Ive been effective of late.
The hour is very, very late for the Tigers now.
But every game you pitch in the World Series is a must-wingame, Scherzer said. So what better opportunity than the one I have?
The Giants feel just as enthused about the pitcher theyresending to the mound.
I think your great players seem to play better when theclub needs them, Bochy said. The higher the stakes, the more they do toelevate their game. Thats hitters and pitchers, and I certainly would put MattCain in that class."