Sparkling Cain Start Blown, Giants Lose 7-3 In Extras

Matt Cain looked the sharpest he has in weeks, but seven scoreless innings weren’t enough as the San Francisco Giants fell to the Cincinnati Reds 7-3 after eleven innings.

What looked like the Giants’ first 1-0 win since August 30, 2013, turned sour in the ninth, as Sergio Romo gave up a no-out, two-run blast to Brandon Phillips, his fourth blown save this season and third over his last five games. Opponents have been able to time Romo well recently, and have hit safely in eleven of their last 23 at-bats against the closer.

The Giants rallied back in the bottom of the inning, as Hunter Pence singled to right field and Pablo Sandoval worked a ten-pitch walk against Aroldis Chapman. Buster Posey came in as a pinch hitter and knocked a 101 miles-per-hour fastball into left field to tie the game at 2. In a questionable move, manager Bruce Bochy decided to replace Brandon Crawford, who has silenced talks of platoons after going .338 against lefties, with Joaquin Arias, currently batting .186 against southpaws, and who grounded out to short.

In spite of having runners on second and third with no outs, San Francisco wasn’t able to push across another run and we went to extras. The Reds broke it open in the eleventh, started by a Joey Votto double off Javier Lopez out to Brandon Hicks, who made his major league debut in the outfield after the Giants emptied their bench. Lopez loaded the bases and was replaced by Jean Machi, who quickly allowed Lopez’s runners to score, then allowed two more of his own. It was a disappointing ending for such a strong Cain outing.

The Giants’ starter gave up zero runs through his seven innings of work, a feat the right-hander hadn’t accomplished since September of 2012. Cain was able to avoid any damage from runners in scoring position, a situation he had struggled with recently: before tonight, opponents were batting .304 with runners in scoring position, and 7-for-12 in his last two starts. Tonight, Cincinnati went 0-for-6. Cain kept any Red from crossing the plate and was on top of his game, picking off Billy Hamilton in the first inning and being part of a strike-em-out, throw-em-out in the seventh.

Cain’s outing was everything the Giants needed to keep up with Cincinnati, especially against a similarly strong performance from the Reds’ Alfredo Simon. After giving up a quick leadoff single to Gregor Blanco in the first inning, Simon retired the next ten Giants and held them to that one hit until the bottom of the fifth, where Brandon Crawford, Adam Duvall and Joe Panik combined to push across one run for San Francisco. Simon finished his own seven-inning outing with just three hits and the one run.

The Giants can be optimistic about the impending return of Brandon Belt, who finished his third rehab game strong on Saturday night. Belt went 3-for-4 in Fresno with a single and two doubles, the last of which scored the game-winning run in the Grizzlies’ 3-2 win. Another success: Belt was able to avoid being hit by a pitch for the first time in three games. His rehab was accelerated after his two DH appearances in San Jose on Thursday and Friday night, and the lefty is slated to start at first base tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow the Giants will try to avoid the sweep as they take on the Reds for the final day of this four-game matchup. Tim Hudson will take on Homer Bailey, who is looking to right the ship after several tough starts, including a four-run start against the Cubs that unraveled after a home run broke up three perfect innings. Hudson has also had issues over his last couple of starts, giving up eleven earned runs over 21 hits in 10.1 innings of his last two starts. He’d given up just four runs in the starts prior to those.

First pitch at 1:05pm.