Reliable Cain set for Game 2 vs. Braves

Reliable Cain set for Game 2 vs. Braves

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Thursday, "The Freak" put the Giants in control of the National League Division Series with an overpowering performance against the Braves.

On Friday, the Giants will send their horse to the mound in hopes of putting a 2-0 chokehold on the Braves.

Giants starter Matt Cain (13-11, 3.14 ERA) will take the mound in Game 2 of the NLDS against Atlanta at 6:30 p.m. PT, live on TBS.

In Game 1, Lincecum stymied the Braves' bats, striking out 14 batters and holding Atlanta to only two hits. The scary thing is, it's entirely possible that Friday night could be deja vu for the Braves.

"Cainer's a horse," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "I wouldn't want to come and face these guys back-to-back."

Like Lincecum a day before, Cain also will be making his postseason debut. The day before his first experience under October's bright lights, Cain was taking it as business as usual as he neared the biggest start of his career.

"Just trying to take it as another start," Cain said before Thursday's 1-0 win. "Obviously, it's going to be an exciting game, but [I'll be] really trying to control the emotions and go out there and pitch just like any other start."

Tale of the Tape: NLDS Game 2
2010 Regular Season
Overall: 34 GS, 10-11, 3.33 ERA, 56 BB, 173 Ks
Overall: 33 GS, 13-11, 3.14 ERA, 61 BB, 177 Ks
Key stat: One run allowed in last 18 2/3 innings
Key stat: Giants have won 12 of past 15 starts
Postseason
2010: N/A
Career: N/A
2010: N/A
Career: N/A
At AT&T PARK
2010: N/A Career: N/A
2010: 16 GS, 8-4, 2.93 ERA Career: 90 GS, 33-30, 3.19 ERA
Against this opponent
2010: 1 GS, 0-0, 1.29 ERA Career: 2 GS, 1-0, 2.57 ERA
2010: 1 GS, 0-1, 5.40 ERA Career: 5 GS, 2-2, 4.03 ERA
Loves to face: Cody Ross (0-for-7, 5 Ks)
Hates to face: Pat Burrell (2-for-2)
Loves to face: Alex Gonzalez (0-for-9, 4 Ks)
Hates to face: Derrek Lee (4-for-15, 1 HR)
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: 1.81 ERA, 1.76 opponents' batting average last seven starts
Why he'll win: Giants' best pitcher in second half
Pitcher beware: First postseason start
Pitcher beware: Struggled last start with chance to clinch NL West
Bottom line: Not-so-wide-eyed kid
Bottom line: Old reliable

For Giants fans who have watched Cain during his five full seasons in San Francisco, Cain's mentality heading into Friday is no surprise. After all, this is the same player who, while being interviewed in a raucous postgame celebration after the Giants clinched the NL West, calmly talked to the camera while teammates poured beer and champagne on his head.

Between that scene and numerous others throughout his career, it is Cain whom the Giants can seemingly trust no matter what is at stake -- which made it even more surprising that Cain struggled in his last start, an opportunity to clinch the NL West against the Padres. Instead of rising to the occasion, Cain struggled, lasting only four innings and giving up six runs. On Wednesday, Cain said he expects that experience to help him when he takes the mound.

"That was definitely a test," Cain said. "And I think that I'll use that to my advantage for tomorrow night and carry some of my mental preparation and how I felt during the game. The good stuff and the bad stuff, I'll carry that in tomorrow."

Although Lincecum is the bigger star and fellow starting pitcher Barry Zito gets more publicity -- even when he's not pitching -- Cain is the ever-reliable pitcher who simply gets his job done. Only 26, the right-hander has reached the 200-inning mark for four consecutive years.

"Invaluable," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said earlier this season of Cain's durability. "To have a guy like this who's so strong, he's a horse. He's one guy I don't get concerned with as far as pitch count. He's in incredible shape. It's a credit to how hard he works."

Cain has experienced so-so success in five career starts against the Braves, going 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA. In his last start against Atlanta on Aug. 7, Cain took the loss after allowing three runs in five innings.

Despite the changes the Braves roster has gone through in the past couple of months -- with Chipper Jones and Martin Prado out with injuries -- Cain said there are a lot of dangerous hitters in the lineup.

"[Catcher Brian] McCann obviously is the guy that you know from their team, but [Derrek] Lee is a guy that's swinging the bat well, swung the bat well over the weekend," Cain said. "You know you've got from [Jason] Heyward to [Omar] Infante, and keeping the first guys off the bags can work to put pressure on the middle guys."

Cain's first taste of October baseball also brings a sense of pride in a Giants club he has been apart of for the past five-plus seasons. After struggling to win 70 games from 2005-08, the Giants took a leap forward in 2009, finishing third in the NL West with 88 wins before winning the division this season. Cain, the longest-tenured Giant, said it's been satisfying to see the rebuilding process firsthand.

On Friday, he can take the Giants one step closer to their next step.

"From when I first came up to really not having much of a chance of making it into September sometimes, to being able to play now, the past couple of years, we've been having a lot of fun all year and playing ball real well," Cain said. "It's definitely fun and it's a testament to what the management has done and what they wanted to do with the players, to push us to keep going out there and believing in ourselves, that we can be as good as we are now and to keep pushing us through the system."

Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.