Matt Cain's Giants career comes to an emotional, but fitting end

Matt Cain's Giants career comes to an emotional, but fitting end


SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Cain made his way through a crowded dugout, offering hugs to coaches who have watched him grow and players who have followed his lead. When he reached the end of the line, he found Madison Bumgarner, who will soon be the longest-tenured Giants pitcher at the age of 28.

Bumgarner wrapped Cain in a massive bear hug and lifted him off the ground as Cain ducked his head. It was the passing of a torch. It was also the end of an era. 

Cain made the 331st and final start of a 13-year career, and he went out the way he wanted. He threw five shutout innings against the Padres, striking out four and allowing just two hits in a game the Giants would blow twice and lose 3-2. 

The bullpen warmed up several times on a day when Cain’s pitch count was limited, but as he has done so many times, he dug deep and kept on going. When the final start was done, he received one last lengthy ovation from a crowd that watched him help build a dynasty. 

Cain has spent a career being stoic, and he held it together early on an emotional day. He received one pre-game standing ovation when he took the field at 12:40 p.m. to warm up, another when he returned to the dugout, and a third when he led the Giants onto the field. When Cain blew 89 mph past Wil Myers to end a perfect first inning, the crowd roared again. 

Cain struck out another in a clean second, but Hunter Renfroe led off the third with a single to center. As Derek Law started to warm up in the bullpen, Cain got out of the inning. Law and Ty Blach warmed up from the start of the fourth, but Cain didn’t need any help. He worked around an infield single, freezing Christian Villanueva with a 90 mph fastball at the knees to get the third out. 

Law again started the fourth on the bullpen mound, and when Cain walked leadoff hitter Cory Spangenberg, manager Bruce Bochy emerged from the dugout. Bochy immediately heard a chorus of boos, but after a quick talk with Cain, he left him in. Cain struck out Austin Hedges, giving him 1,694, the third-most in San Francisco Giants history. When Jhoulys Chacin grounded out on Cain’s 73rd pitch, a legendary career was over. 

Bochy was waiting for Cain when he returned to the dugout and he gave him a big hug. Cain hugged Buster Posey, waved both hands to the crowd, and then tapped his heart. As he descended the dugout steps for the final time, he flipped his cap into the crowd. 

A few minutes later, Cain’s final start officially became a Matt Cain start. Myers took Reyes Moronta deep to left, meaning Cain got Cained one last time. He took a no-decision after getting one run of support. This was the 109th no-decision of Cain’s career. 

The Giants got the go-ahead run in the seventh. Ryder Jones drew a walk and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. He raced home on Hunter Pence’s single, but the lead would disappear in the top of the ninth. Austin Hedges hit a two-run double off Sam Dyson with two outs and two strikes. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”