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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.