Matt Cain proves beatable in postseason for first time

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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.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.