Rewind: Rockies vs. Giants, Game #3

A team as exciting and appealing as a day old trout suddenly looks like a contender. The San Francisco Giants are very much in the National League West race, following yesterday's victory in Arizona to propel them into second place. In an admittedly terrible division, with the kind of season the Giants have had the recent surge has been a welcome change of pace.

Great starting pitching is the story again this weekend. Jason Schmidt opened the series Friday night with a commanding performance and Noah Lowry’s battle on Saturday kept the team rolling. In both games the offense came around after games were it was sorely missed, to the confusion of the team and fans alike. For what good is fantastic pitching if you can’t score a few runs to back it up?

This afternoon Matt Cain took the mound seeking his first Major League victory in just his second start. Expectations and hopes run high for this young man, and following his effort in his first start, 100 pitches over five innings in an eventual loss, it was said he couldn’t keep throwing the way he’s been since he was drafted without finding success. He didn’t need a hitting party to make it work today. Unlike his older, experienced fellow starters he had to rely on his arm to get the win.

To speak of the Giants’ recent roll without mentioning deadline acquisition Randy Winn is like telling a story beginning with “Once upon a time” and ending it two seconds later with “And they lived happily ever after.” In thirty-one games with the Giants he’s collected thirty-seven hits with five home runs and eleven runs batted in, and is hitting .306. He led off the game with a triple, hustling around second to take advantage of the Diamondbacks’ makeshift outfield situation, and scored on a JT Snow single. The quick run gave Cain breathing room, invaluable for a hotly anticipated rookie. He responded by retiring the first five batters he faced. Over his seven innings pitched today he had four 1-2-3 innings. He showed infrequent signs of trouble. In the second inning Arizona right fielder Chad Tracy drew a two-out walk and former Giant shortstop Royce Clayton followed with a single. Cain popped catcher Chris Snyder up to shortstop for out number three.

An unexpected pitcher’s duel blossomed in the desert with another former Giant Russ Ortiz opposing young Cain. Ortiz is known for being a winner throughout his career. With a lifetime record of 108-68 and many double-digit win totals in a Giants uniform, his 5-8 mark and 6.64 ERA in 2005 don’t seem to add up. Those numbers don’t diminish the fact that he can still pitch. After the first inning problems Ortiz settled down and retired fourteen Giants hitters in a row. It was Winn again to kick start the offense in the sixth inning with another extra-base hit, this time a double. He came around to score on Omar Vizquel’s single, and JT Snow kept his hand hot with a single following the run-scoring play. Moises Alou hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Vizquel out at third, and then Ray Durham popped out in foul ground to third base.

The Giants did it again in the seventh. Edgardo Alfonzo got aboard with a walk and rookie right fielder Todd Linden was hit by a pitch and moved up on Cain’s bunt. Ortiz fielded it cleanly to third to get the lead runner, but it didn’t matter. Winn cracked a single to center to bring Linden in and the Giants gave Cain a three-run gift to play with, a favorite toy of any pitcher, young or old.

Cain showed his ability to pitch in pressure situations by that second inning and in his final inning of work. Big Tony Clark laced a ball into the right field corner and just kept running. With a runner at third and no out Cain induced a ground out to third, which allowed the run to score. He came back to retire the next two hitters, Tracy on a fly ball to left and Clayton on a bouncer to second.

When a team is going like the Giants are, they get breaks that save a situation from turning dire. Such a break happened in the bottom of the eighth inning. Latroy Hawkins, who has been excellent since the All-Star Break with a 1.77 ERA and nineteen strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched, had a hard time when he relieved Cain. Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa’s strike zone seemed to shrink as the afternoon wore on, and Hawkins missed strikes more than once. He walked pinch hitter Andy Green, the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player for 2005, and after a pop up to retire Craig Counsell allowed a single to Alex Cintron. He was pulled in favor of Scott Eyre, to face the dangerous left-handed swinger Luis Gonzalez. A comebacker to Eyre should have been the inning but it escaped through his legs. Were it not for Vizquel behind him, with a glorious scoop and throw to Snow at first for the third out, the Giants would be in serious trouble.

Eighth inning drama nearly became ninth inning drama when Armando Benitez was summoned to finish Cain’s gem. Since coming off the disabled list Benitez is perfect in save situations, going five for five. Clark greeted him with a huge leadoff home run and suddenly it was a one-run game. But the Giants didn’t hand him a cream-colored uniform for nothing. Showing the grit of Lowry yesterday and Cain earlier today he retired the side for the sweep.

SFDugout Player of the Game: Can we name co-players of the game? Cain’s first Major League win came from his gutsy pitching and poise, but without Randy Winn’s 3-for-4 day, only a homer short of the cycle, last achieved on August 15, does Cain win this thing? It’s questionable. Both these guys did it for the Giants today, so they both get the nod.

Game notes: The biggest news to hit Giants nation is almost here. The triumphant return of Barry Bonds takes place tomorrow in Los Angeles, where the team will hold batting practice and workouts all three days just for Barry. It’s probably the best news the organization and fans have heard all year…Starting Tuesday at 9am the team will conduct an auction at to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. All proceeds will go to the relief efforts. The auction ends at 9pm Thursday…Also on the hurricane front: the Red Cross will be on hand next weekend during the Cubs series at SBC Park to accept cash donations to aid those affected by the tragedy…National Basketball Association MVP Steve Nash was in the house to watch good friend and former teammate Winn. They were the backcourt for Santa Clara State University’s basketball team in their college days.

Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 23rd season of fandom and first where she's had the honor to write for the Giants on Love/hate mail can be sent to, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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