San Francisco, CA – It was a dynamic duo that sparked the Giants win tonight. Matt Cain earned his first win in almost a year and Hunter Pence drove in two runs while making the defensive play of the night. San Francisco snapped their seven-game losing streak by shutting out the Mets 3-0.
Cain made his second start of the season and first appearance at AT&T Park after coming off the disable list. He scattered two hits over six scoreless innings. Cain retired the first five batters he faced before giving up a double to Kevin Plawecki in the third. He issued a free pass to both Curtis Granderson and Ruben Tejada to load the bases. After settling down he struck out Daniel Murphy to end the threat.
“It’s been a long time, it’s been a long road,” said Cain when asked about recording his first win since July 9, 2014. “It’s been a lot of work. I can’t give the trainers and those guys enough credit. They found a way to keep me grounded for the long haul of it.”
The Giants scored two runs in the third. Gregor Blanco led off the frame with an infield single. Joe Panik followed with a bloop single to left field and an error by third baseman [Daniel] Murphy allowed Matt Duffy to reach first safely. With the bases loaded and no outs, Pence drove in Blanco on a fielder’s choice. Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly scored in Panik making it a 2-0 game.
Pence was activated prior to the game from the 15-day disable list. He missed the last 30 games with left wrist tendinitis. Pence also missed the first 36 games of the season with a fractured left forearm that he suffered in Spring Training on March 5 after getting hit by an inside fastball from Cubs RHP Corey Black. Pence has 13 RBI’s in just 18 games this season. He’s 7-for-22 with runners in scoring position.
Tonight he outshined Cain’s outstanding performance. The right-hander threw 66 strikes in 95 pitches. Overcoming elbow surgery and a strained flexor tendon hasn’t been easy for Cain who made his first start at home. After a hiccup in the third, he returned to form and retired the next six batters before yielding a leadoff triple to Granderson. But it was Pence’s heroic play that kept New York off the board.
“He put it right on the money for catcher [Andrew] Susac,” San Francisco’s manager Bruce Bochy said. “We need some presence out there with this streak we’ve been going through, just a shot of adrenaline and he gives you that.”
Tejada’s popup to shallow right field was the break the Mets were looking for. Granderson took off from third to home plate, Pence made a sliding catch down the right field line and popped up quickly firing off a throw to Susac to tag out Granderson for the double play. Cain forced Murphy to ground out to end the inning. The sellout crowd stood to their feet to give Pence a standing ovation.
“I saw him dive for it and I took off,” said Granderson. “I figured if a guy’s going to have to get on the ground for it, it’s not as easy of a play even though the distance of it isn’t as far. But he was able to get it up quickly and make a good throw.”
“I caught the ball with nothing to lose,” Pence said. “There’s no one else on base so you can throw it as hard as you can. You’re kind of spinning and throwing a prayer up there. It was kind of a miracle. All of the stars kind of have to align.”
The Giants offense got another break in the fifth when starting pitcher Bartolo Colon surrendered two back-to-back singles to both Panik and Duffy. Pence followed with a RBI single driving in his second run of the night extending San Francisco’s lead 3-0. It was the win they needed badly. The Giants recorded their 13th shutout of the season leading the Majors.
Unlike last night, San Francisco’s bullpen pulled it together to pitch three scoreless innings. The struggles the bullpen have faced lately seemed to be behind them. George Kontos tossed a scoreless seventh, Hunter Strickland struck out a pair, rookie Josh Osich shut down the eighth and closer Santiago Casilla earned his 21st save. Casilla had allowed four runs on five hits in his past two outings.
“We had four extra-base hits and we couldn’t push anything across,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “All we had to do was something here or there and I think it would have been and interesting finish.”