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.