SAN FRANCISCO — For old time sake, Matt Cain put together a serviceable start and the Giants failed to produce enough offense to get him the win. A controversial call in the ninth inning certainly didn’t help Cain or the Giants’ cause.
Cain did exactly what the Giants needed him to do as a substitute filling in for Madison Bumgarner, who was scratched from his scheduled start because of illness, at AT&T Park Thursday. Although he labored through five innings of work, he gave his team a chance to win by surrendering just two earned runs, but the Giants anemic offense couldn’t find a way to pick him up in a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He really did grind through five for us,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’ll take that any time. Unfortunately, we’re just not swinging the bats very well right now, but Matty, he gave us all we needed and wanted.”
Despite Cain’s valiant effort in place of Bumgarner, the game was shrouded by controversy because of a head-scratching call in the ninth. Trailing 5-1 with no outs and Buster Posey on second, Brandon Crawford appeared to hit his 13th home run of the season with a blast over the bricks in right. But the play was sent to video review in New York because a fan reached onto the wall’s green roof and caught the ball just as it was seemingly about to hit the yellow foul paint.
Instead of giving Crawford a four bagger, New York awarded him with a ground-rule double that scored Posey, baffling the Giants dugout and the remaining fans in attendance because the ground rules at AT&T Park stipulate that any ball landing on the brick wall’s green roof is a home run.
The fan who caught the ball was ejected.
“I’d love to see that camera angle that they had because every single person that was physically at the park tonight thought that that was a home run, Cardinals players, our guys,” Crawford said. “There’s no way there’s conclusive evidence that that wouldn’t have been a home run.”
His manager agreed.
“They said it was fan interference. They’re wrong. The ball hit the green,” Bochy said. “It’s just a terrible overturn there. It shocked all of us. Would it have made a difference? You don’t know, but you hate to see a home run taken away.
“If you know the ground rules and it hits that green, it’s a home run. It really wasn’t even close.”
Crawford said it was ruled a ground rule double because the video reviewers believed the fan, who was ejected, reached beyond the green roof and into the field of play.
“For somebody to reach into the field of play in right field, they would have to lay down flat and have somebody hold their feet to make that catch,” he said. “I thought the only reason (the video review) was taking so long was because maybe they thought it was a foul ball. That’s the only other explanation I could think of.”
Cain also thought it was a home run while he was watching from the Giants clubhouse. He based his judgement on experience.
“Yeah, because I’ve had a lot of them that have gone of the tin (green roof) that were homers,” he said.
Had the home run counted, the Giants would have been trailing the Cardinals 5-3 with no outs in the ninth.
“I don’t think it really matters what the situation is,” Crawford said. “It’s about making the right call and the right call wasn’t made.”
The start was likely one of Cain’s last as a Giant at AT&T Park and emblematic of his career in Orange & Black. Despite a career 3.69 ERA entering Thursday’s game, Cain (3-11) has produced a sub-.500 104-118 record, in large part, because the Giants often failed to provide him with run support when he was among the National League’s top starters from 2007 through 2012.
Apparently, the team was in nostalgia mode Thursday night.
Cain’s lone blemish came in the second when he committed the ultimate sin for any starting pitcher, surrendering a two-out, two-run home run to the No. 8 hitter, Randal Grichuk, after he got ahead in the count 0-2. The righty hung a slow curve ball over the middle of the plate and Grichuk smashed it to left, the decisive blow in his 10th-consecutive loss, making him the first Giants pitcher to do so since Bill Lohrman in 1940.
After 83 pitches, Cain was pulled from the game in fifth when his spot in the batting order came up with runners on the corners and just one out.
With just 14 home games left on the schedule, and Cain’s five-year, $112.5 million contract set to expire after the season, Thursday’s outing likely marked one of his final starts as a Giant at AT&T Park and he acquitted himself well.
The start was particularly pleasing because it came on the heels of Cain’s dismal performance out of the bullpen on Sunday when he surrendered eight earned runs in 2/3 innings of work against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I was definitely nice to get back out there,” said Cain, who learned that he would likely be filling in for Bumgarner on Wednesday. “It was not a fun day or so after that outing in Arizona.”
The decision to bat Carlos Moncrief in Cain’s place proved to be a wise decision as the pinch hitter drove in the Giants lone run on a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Hunter Pence.
Beside the noise in the fifth, the Giants ice-cold bats continued to struggle against Wacha, who entered the contest with a 10.22 ERA in his previous three starts. The Giants produced just three hits off Wacha (10-7) in six innings after producing an average of just 1.7 runs per game during their six-game road trip which concluded Wednesday.
After the Cardinals got Cain off the hill, they broke the game open by scoring a run off Hunter Strickland in the seventh and two more off Mark Melancon in the eighth.
— The Giants will expand their roster with four September call ups on Friday. Right-handed reliever Derek Law, left-handed reliever Steven Okert, utility man Orlando Calixte and catcher Tim Federowicz. In addition, the Giants outrighted Jae-Gyun Hwang off the 40-man roster.
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