Two batters into the ballgame, Matt Cain hadn’t given up a hit but was already down a run. Panic? Hardly.
The young righthander settled down to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning, and ended up pitching eight dominant innings of one-hit, 10-strikeout ball as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2-1 at AT&T park.
Mixing in a Jason Schmidt-esque changeup with his high heat, Cain (6-5) baffled Angels hitters after the first inning, striking out every Angels starter at least once except shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Cain got within five outs of a no-hitter, allowing only a one-out single to Chone Figgins in the eighth inning.
Figgins got the Angels on the board in the first inning in typical fashion. After walking to leadoff the game, the speedy utilityman took off for second base with Cabrera at bat, and when Giants catcher Eliezer Alfonzo threw the ball away for an error, Figgins came all the way around to score to give the Angels a quick 1-0 lead.
Some of the less faithful of Giants fans must have been dreading the worst after Cain then walked Cabrera. But Cain proceeded to retire the side, and retire the next 15 Angels hitters.
The Giants needed every bit of Cain’s efforts, as their offense was also shut down after the first inning by Cain’s counterpart, Angels starting pitcher Kelvim Escobar. The burly Venezuelan allowed only four hits in the ballgame himself, and only one hit after the first inning.
So it was most opportune that the Giants got to Escobar early. A struggling Randy Winn led off the bottom of the first inning with a single to left. Then after a flyout by Omar Vizquel, Mark Sweeney singled to put runners at the corners with one out. Barry Bonds then came through in the clutch with a double to left that scored Winn to tie the game. Steve Finley then drove in what would be the winning run of the ballgame on a groundout to second that scored Sweeney for a 2-1 Giants advantage.
That advantage would turn into a final, thanks in part to Armando Benitez. The much-maligned Giants closer began the ninth inning by throwing a hanger to Angels superstar Vladimir Guerrero, but the big slugger’s ferocious swing resulted in a meager flyout to left field for the first out. Benitez did allow the tying run to reach base in the form of a two-out single by Angels catcher Mike Napoli (who had struck out three times against Cain), but he retired first baseman Kendry Morales to end the game and save it for a well-deserved, hard-fought win by Cain and the Giants.
SFDugout’s Player of the Game: One of the easiest picks of the year Benitez. Kidding! Cain, of course. It’s very exciting (or scary, depending on one’s perspective) to think that more nights like this one are on the horizon. For the Giants, they’d better hope it’s a fast-arriving horizon.
Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the '02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn't finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at firstname.lastname@example.org to commiserate, cheer, and complain.
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