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Matt Cain announces his retirement

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Giants pitcher Matt Cain announced his retirement this afternoon. He’ll make one last start for the Giants, this Saturday against the Padres, but then he’ll call it a career.

Cain, 32, was already expected to separate from the Giants after this season given that his contract is up, but he has decided not to try to latch on elsewhere. It’s probably the right decision, as Cain is now but a shadow of what he once was, having posted a 5.66 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate and highest WHIP of his career in 2017. That, however, will soon be forgotten as his many wonderful years are remembered when he is given his sendoff this Saturday.

Cain pitched thirteen seasons, all with the Giants. At his peak he was one of the best in all of baseball. Between 2007 and 2012 he went 70-65 with a 3.18 ERA (126 ERA+) and a K/BB ratio of 1,069/418 in 1,299.2 innings. He should’ve won a lot more games than he did, but he was frequently plagues with low run support during his prime.

Cain won three World Series rings with the Giants and posted a 2.10 ERA in eight postseason starts. He made three All-Star teams and had two top-10 finishes in the Cy Young voting (2011, 2012). On June 13, 2012 Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in baseball history, striking out 14 Houston Astros batters in the process, tying Sandy Koufax’s record for the most Ks in a perfecto.

Cain, who averaged 213 innings pitched a season between 2006 and 2012, began to experience injury problems in 2013. Some of the injuries were freak injuries — he was hit by a comebacker, sending him to the DL in early 2013 — others chronic. He’d need elbow surgery and ankle surgery in 2014. His numbers and his durability began to decline after 2013. This is the first season he’s pitched over 100 innings in the past four seasons.

But no matter how his career has ended, he was a critical part of the Giants mid-2000s rebuild and the mini-dynasty that won three World Series between 2010 and 2014. For that, he will always be a big part of Giants history. The fans will cheer him wildly and loudly at AT&T Park on Saturday.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.