Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lee v. Cain - An April duel, instant classic

What was it about last night's Giants-Phillies extra innings show down that made it an instant classic?  Perhaps it was the almost certain renewal of a rivalry ignited in the 2010 playoffs.  Maybe it was the fact that fans atAT&T Park witnessed two of the best at their craft facing off, performing at the top of their game.  Or better still, it was a return to that baseball we've come to know and love - well-pitched, futile baseball. One-run ball games.  Walk offs.
More often than not, a gem like the one Matt Cain and Cliff Lee delivered last night would end around midnight with Jon Miller and Dave Flemming on an intravenous caffeine drip, but not this one.  Lee and Cain were so masterful on the mound that the total run time of yesterday's extra innings duel was 2 hrs and 27 minutes.  
How good were they?  Lee and Cain combined for 19 scoreless innings.  9 hits.  11 strike outs. 1 walk. No runs allowed. Oh yeah, and no wins.
Yesterday's game extended Matt Cain's scoreless streak to 18 innings when combined with his one hit shutout over the Pirates only 6 days ago.  Forget the KNBR horse sounder - what noise does an ace make?
Cain had only thrown 91 pitches through 9 innings when Bochy pulled him for Hector Sanchez to bat, and despite the fact that he could have probably gone for three more, this was the right move.  Here's when having a bullpen nastier than a snuff film comes in handy - Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Clay Hensley formed a committee that was nothing short of stifling in relief.
Lee went the extra inning, ending his outing with 10 IP and 102 pitches, in favor of Antonio Bastardo - the man whose name is only slightly less fortunate than how his Wednesday evening ended.  A Brandon Belt pinch-hit single up the middle got the runner on.  A fielding error by Ty Wiggington got Pagan aboard and moved Belt to second.  A single by Melky Cabrera (whose contract year is in full effect, with the Giants reaping the benefits) plated the only run of the evening.  Juego, Gigantes.
Don't look now, but after being swept in their first series in Arizona, the Giants have won their last three against the Rockies, Pirates and Phillies.  They now head to New York for a four game set with the Mets, followed by a three-game trip to Cincinnati.  While the story lines surrounding the Giants - from Lincecum's struggles to the lineup's new found ability to hit - will be plentiful, one thing seems certain:  Matt Cain is locked in, and he's earning his money.

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