Matt Cain took the mound for his final career start on Saturday afternoon. His 13-year run with the Giants has been buoyed by flashes of brilliance, from his contributions during three championship runs to the perfect game he executed against the Astros in 2012, and no matter his stat line on Saturday, it was bound to be an emotional day. Given his startling downturn over the past five seasons, no one would have blamed the veteran right-hander had he imploded yet again, mirroring some of the 9+ run, three-inning outings he weathered earlier in the year. Instead, the Giants were treated to a vintage performance from their former ace.
Cain dazzled the Padres’ end-of-season lineup (admittedly, not an impressive feat in and of itself), spitting four strikeouts, two hits and a walk over five scoreless innings. He retired the first six batters in order before allowing a leadoff single to Hunter Renfroe in the third, but induced three quick outs to end the threat and didn’t allow another batter past first base for the rest of his start.
It looked like Cain’s career finale was doomed to end on a sour note after he issued a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg in the fifth. Giants’ skipper Bruce Bochy approached the mound, incurring a stream of boos from the crowd, but ultimately decided to leave the rest of the inning to his starter. Cain didn’t disappoint, inducing a fly out from Renfroe, whiffing Austin Hedges on four pitches and getting Jhoulys Chacin to ground out to end the inning.
The 32-year-old tipped his cap to the crowd as he walked off the mound, then tossed it into the stands. He wouldn’t take the win — Wil Myers‘ game-tying home run took care of that in the sixth — but there was no more fitting footnote to an incredible career.