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.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.