The Giants were so dominant in the 2010 postseason that Matt Cain had no chance to match Cole Hamels’ feat from 2008. Hamels went 4-0 and his team won all five of his starts as the Phillies marched to a World Series victory.
Cain, on the other hand, pitched just three times as the Giants cleaned up two years ago. Starting once each series, he allowed only one unearned run over 21 1/3 innings as San Francisco won its championship.
Until now, that was the only time the Giants had reached the postseason in Cain’s seven big-league seasons, meaning Cain entered his Game 1 start tonight with a 0.00 ERA. Unfortunately, it didn’t last for long. Cain left a curveball up to Brandon Phillips in the third, and Phillips deposited it into the stands in left for a two-run homer. In the fourth, Jay Bruce was able to yank a changeup out to right, making it 3-0.
With the Giants yet to score, Cain was removed for a pinch-hitter after five. He was at just 75 pitches and likely would have been good for two more innings, but this is the postseason and the Giants needed offense. They went on to lose 5-2.
For Cain, it was the first time he allowed two homers since the July 21. It happened five times during the regular season, yet two of those five outings came against the Reds.
The early exit makes Cain a candidate to come back and pitch Game 4 on short rest. The Giants haven’t announced their starters beyond Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, but expectations were that it’d be Tim Lincecum in Game 3 and Barry Zito in Game 4. Cain in Game 4 now seems a whole lot more likely, particularly if the Giants are down 2-1.
But that probably doesn’t scare the Reds. Cain has allowed 11 runs over 18 innings the three times he’s faced Cincinnati this year. While he’s plenty good, he suddenly appears vulnerable.
Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.
“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”
The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.
Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.
MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.
Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.
Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.