Series clincher Matt Cain now gets to go for the big one

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Matt Cain started and won Game 5 of the NLDS against the Reds. He got the ball again in Game 7 of the NLCS versus the Cardinals. Now he’ll try to close out a third straight series for the Giants in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday evening.

That Cain had to wait until Game 4 to face the Tigers was something of a surprise, and manager Bruce Bochy did indicate that fatigue played some role in his decision. Cain was one of the NL’s top five starters this year, and if he were still throwing like he did in September, there’s little doubt that the Giants would have lined him up to pitch Games 3 and 7 of the World Series.

Cain, though, hasn’t looked like a world beater in the postseason. While he’s come up with the two big wins, he’s lost his two other starts. In Game 7 against the Cardinals, Bochy made the call to remove him with a shutout intact in the sixth inning. In all, Cain has pitched 23 innings in his four starts and amassed a solid 3.52 ERA. However, it’s come with a decreased strikeout rate and four homers allowed. He allowed a homer every 10 innings during the regular season. In 2011, he allowed a homer every 25 innings.

On the plus side, Cain will get to face an ice cold Tigers offense in poor conditions for hitting. The temperature was 47 degrees at the start of tonight’s game, and the forecast calls for a similar Sunday. Plus, he has a pretty rested bullpen behind him after Tim Lincecum took care of business tonight. One imagines the Giants will aim for six innings from Cain in Game 4, with Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo matching up from there. It’s been a winning recipe so far.

Struggling Francisco Rodriguez’s job seems to be secure

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Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.

Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”

“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”

Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.

The Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field

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Don’t look now, but the Nationals have the best record in baseball at 16-6. They’re coming off a 10-game road trip in which they went 9-1, including sweeps of the Braves and Mets and a 3-1 series against the Rockies at Coors Field. During that series with the Rockies, the Nationals scored 46 runs, which is nearly as many as the Royals (54) have scored all season long. The Nats scored double-digits in all three wins.

The first game at Coors, an 8-4 loss, saw a three-hit game from Anthony Rendon and a homer from Ryan Zimmerman.

The second game featured Trea Turner hitting for the cycle and driving in seven runs. Daniel Murphy had three hits and five RBI.

The third game saw Turner finish a triple short of the cycle. Bryce Harper had four hits. Zimmerman had three hits including a homer. Murphy homered, too.

The fourth game featured homers from Adam Eaton, Harper, and Murphy. Seven members of the lineup had multiple hits and six had multiple RBI including pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

The series helped the Nationals bring their run differential to +34, the best in the National League. The Yankees are the only team with a better differential at +35.

Indeed, the Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field. They return home to open up a three-game set with the ailing Mets on Friday night.