Before Wednesday’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was noncommittal about the prospect of skipping Matt Cain’s spot in the rotation next week when the Giants have off days around a two-game series in Kansas City.
But the Giants beat writers seemed pretty certain that they would.
Bochy non-committal about skipping Cain next time, but regardless of how he pitches tonight, it’s a pretty obvious move.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) April 12, 2017
Giants still considering skipping fifth starter next week (I think they will). Would give Bumgarner two starts on road trip.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 12, 2017
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 13, 2017
But I was less certain.
#SFGiants beat writers seem convinced No. 5 spot in rotation to be skipped next week as “obvious move”.
Also seems like un-Bochy-like move
— Tim Martinez (@MoreSplashHits) April 13, 2017
In fact, I wasn’t even so sure that if Wednesday’s game had been rained out – it was a soggy, windy night – that Bochy would not have skipped Cain and started Madison Bumgarner on his normal rest on Thursday.
But the game was played and afterwards Bochy was unequivocal – Cain will start next Tuesday in Kansas City after giving up one run on five hits and three walks over five-plus innings of work.
“I think you have to (change your thinking), the way he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “His command, he had four pitches going tonight, he had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well. He found a way to get it done.
“I thought that was just a huge outing for him and a good one to build on.”
In his report for the San Jose Mercury News, Andrew Baggarly hit the nail on the head when he wrote “When a manager has a predilection for loyalty, he doesn’t need to see much to be convinced.”
Bochy said of Cain: “Well, I think it’s something he’s earned. You look at what he’s done for us. We’ve got some championships because of this guy. Some guys earn certain things.
“I go back to Barry Zito. He had his ups and downs, but we stayed with him, and he helped us win a World Series (in 2012), with those starts at St. Louis and then against Detroit. I feel the same about Matty. I think we all do. He’s well-liked. He’s a Giant. He’s a big part of our success. He deserves a longer look.”
But it’s more than loyalty. Yes, Bochy has struck with struggling veteran pitchers with a long track record with the club like Cain, Zito and Barry Zito. But in the past, he has also chosen not to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation regardless of who is pitching in that spot. He just doesn’t like to do it.
But in this particular case, it seems to make good sense, even before Cain’s solid effort on Wednesday.
By staying on turn and pitching Cain next Tuesday – and again a week from Sunday — it means the Giants will send their top four into the series against the Dodgers – Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija. That includes two lefties against the lefty-vulnerable Dodgers.
Looking even farther into the future, if the Giants stay one turn, they would throw Moore, Samardzija and Cain against the Dodgers on May 1-3 in Los Angeles.
Bochy has said that, while he prefers to keep his pitchers on turn, he would consider inserting lefty Ty Blach into the rotation in certain situations. May 3 in Los Angeles could be such a situation.
But that’s a long way off. And for now, with Cain in the rotation, it allows Blach to remain in the pen as the Giants’ lone lefty.
While Cain, the Giants and Bochy were buoyed by Cain’s start on Wednesday, it’s important to remember that in recent years the key to Cain’s success has been his ability to keep the ball in the yard.
On a cold, wet, windy night, the chances of anyone hitting the ball over a wall were not good. And that helped Cain.
Last season, in starts in which he did not allow a home run (excluding an injury-shortened start in Colorado), Cain was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA. His lone loss came in a game in which he got “Cained” – the Giants lost 3-0.
So pitching at home helped Cain. But dating back to 2015, Cain has allowed 18 home runs in his last 15 road starts, excluding the injury-shortened start.
Cain’s next two starts come on the road – in Kansas City and (gulp!) Colorado.