"The days off seemed like forever, but it was good for me because it got me to sit back and really evaluate hitters and what they do," the 21-year-old starter said. "I mostly worked on my strike zone, finding it and hitting it. It feels great to step back and then come back that strong."
And come back strong he did.
The Giants right-hander shut down the cross-town rival Oakland A's Sunday afternoon, 6-0, in a rain-drenched McAfee Mausoleum, just one day after Bonds reached the 714-HR milestone.
Cain reached a milestone of his own as he became the fourth-youngest Giants hurler to pitch a shutout, a one-hitter at that.
"My big thing today is that I was going to get ahead of guys, try to get them to put the ball in play and wear out the strike zone," said Cain, who retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced to display his utter dominance of the A's.
The rookie attributed his success to the break he took at the advice of the Giants brain trust, namely pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner.
"Whatever they did, they did a great job, Dr. Righetti and Dr. Gardner. That's 11 scoreless innings with his two-inning tuneup in Houston," said Giants manager Felipe Alou.
"I saw some 97s, 98s (on the radar) and that can quiet down a lot of hitters when they look at the radar reading," Alou said. "He dropped a couple of nasty curveballs. I saw better command of the fastball, and from there, everything else was better -- the changeup, the curve. His balance on the mound was the best we've seen from that kid."
The Giants (23-21) tacked on four more runs in the fourth on two-run hits by Winn and Mark Sweeney, and then an insurance run in the seventh, courtesy of A's reliever Chad Gaudin's wildness.
Cain was hardly wild as he had complete command of his pitches and rarely shook off his catcher, Mike Matheny, who he credited after the game for his outstanding game-calling.
The only difficulty Cain encountered was a bases-loaded jam in the third, but tip-toed out of trouble by getting A's centerfielder Mark Kotsay to hit into an inning-ending grounder to first on one pitch.
"I'm proud of him," Matheny said of his batterymate. "It's hard for a young guy who hasn't been in that situation a lot to keep his composure, but he did it and didn't make a lot of mistakes."
San Francisco, winners of nine of their last 13, hopes to continue their little surge against the St. Louis Cardinals, whom they welcome in for a three-game set beginning Monday.
Monday's game will also feature Mike Matheny poster giveaways to the first 20,000 fans. Oh, and something about the number 715.
Game Notes: The Giants activated right-hander Brian Wilson from the 15-day disabled list and then optioned him to Triple-A Fresno... They also placed first baseman Lance Niekro on the 15-day DL (retroactive to May 15) with right shoulder bursitis and recalled second baseman Kevin Frandsen from Fresno to take Niekro's spot on the roster... Hitting coach Joe Lefebvre was excused from Sunday's contest as he flew to Pennsylvania to attend his son Greg's college graduation... San Francisco improved to 18-1 when leading after seven innings... The sell-out crowd (thanks to Giants fans) booed heartily in the ninth inning when Dan Ortmeier replaced Bonds as the designated hitter.
Quotable: "I never saw Barry Bonds take such horrible swings after hitting (No. 713) in Philadelphia," ESPN analyst Joe Morgan said of Bonds recent performance. "He looked like he was pressing, trying to hit every ball out of the ballpark, so I think (finally hitting No. 714) will be a weight off his shoulders.
"It's a fabulous accomplishment, but with all the controversy, I think fans are still trying to figure out what they should do. Although I must say, when we were in Philadelphia, they were cheering and gave him a standing ovation, and (Saturday) in Oakland, they gave him a standing ovation as well."
SFDugout's Player of the Game: Matt Cain gets the nod for player of the game. Cain's outstanding performance, after skipping a start, will hopefully springboard him into a string of quality starts. The 21-year-old has always had the "stuff," but the mental break obviously did wonders for his psyche and mound presence, which was extremely impressive.
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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