By Alex Pavlovic, San Jose Mercury News –
SAN FRANCISCO — They turned back the clock Saturday at AT&T Park, where the players wore replica uniforms from 1912, the scoreboard was sans video, and barbershop quartets and an organ player replaced walk-up songs for batters and the “Fist Pump Cam.”
Matt Cain also turned back the clock — all the way to 2007. That was the last time Cain had anything but a losing career record, but that changed with the Giants’ 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Cain, who has a 3.33 ERA since making his big league debut in 2005, evened his career mark at 75-75 and improved to 6-2 this season. In typical Cain fashion, he didn’t even realize that he had done it.
“I had no idea,” he said, when asked about getting back to .500. “I could care less what my win-loss record is as long as we’re winning.”
Cain makes that task a lot easier every time he takes the ball, especially at home. He has pitched at least eight innings in four of his six starts at AT&T Park this season, and on Saturday, Cain lowered his ERA to 2.62.
The Giants have won their past six games with Cain on the mound.
“You know what you’re going to get with him,” said second baseman Ryan Theriot, a first-year Giant. “Coming in here as the opponent, you’re going to get his best every time.”
Cain was sharp early, and not just with his pitches. He said he felt extremely comfortable in the pinstriped throwback uniforms and he showed that on his first pitch, raising his hands above his head in an exaggerated homage to pitchers of past generations.
“You might as well try to be in character,” he said.
In an era of specialization and Tommy John surgeries, Cain himself is a throwback — a workhorse who has taken the ball every fifth day for the better part of the past decade.
He did so Saturday with a simple plan: “When I start a game I want to finish it.”
Cain came close, giving up just a home run to David DeJesus and striking out seven through the first eight innings. With Cain’s pitch count rising and closer Santiago Casilla unavailable because of a bruised tibia, manager Bruce Bochy asked Cain to face Starlin Castro to lead off the ninth before the game was turned over to the bullpen.
Cain walked Castro, but Javier Lopez induced a double play and Sergio Romo got Alfonso Soriano to ground out to end the game.
Casilla is day-to-day after injuring his knee Friday, but the Giants didn’t skip a beat when Brian Wilson went down for the season and don’t intend to with Casilla hurting. Aside from Lopez (who got the save Friday) and Romo (who was credited with Saturday’s save), Jeremy Affeldt was warming up as a possible closer when the game ended.
“We’re just trying to be that consistent complement to the starters,” Romo said. “The depth of this staff is there, and now it’s being tested. The confidence to pitch in any situation is there, and that will never waver.”
For five innings the Giants lineup also turned back the clock, bringing back memories of a 2011 season that was one to forget for many of the team’s hitters. The Giants have just one homer in their past 17 home games and have reverted to their early season form with runners in scoring position, but they got on the scoreboard in the sixth with a little help from the Cubs.
Theriot led off the inning with a single, and Melky Cabrera reached when Soriano took a circuitous route to a pop-up that dropped in shallow left.
Angel Pagan’s infield single loaded the bases for Aubrey Huff, a .154 hitter entering the at-bat. Huff, making just his fourth start since coming off the disabled list, took a two close two-strike fastballs to draw a walk and bring a run home. It was Huff’s first RBI since April 16.
Joaquin Arias followed with a groundout to short that scored Cabrera and gave Cain a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
“(Cain) is amazing; he just keeps going and competes so well,” Bochy said. “We scratched and clawed, a little bit like a 1912 team. We didn’t show a lot of power today but we found a way to get it done.”
—Pagan extended his hitting streak in home games to 26 games, tying a franchise record that Mike Donlin set in 1906.
—Brad Penny, signed last month as a candidate to join the bullpen, reported to Triple-A Fresno.