Bonds, Giants cash in Cain's gem

Bonds, Giants cash in Cain's gem

SAN FRANCISCO -- Some rookie pitchers don't have 10-win seasons. Some rookie pitchers can't throw 120 pitches each start and be able to lift their arms the next day. Some rookie pitchers only dream to be a part of a playoff hunt.

Matt Cain is no ordinary rookie pitcher.

The 21-year-old had another strong outing Sunday afternoon, holding the Reds scoreless through seven innings and helping the Giants to an 8-0 blowout win at AT&T Park. The victory brings San Francisco to within two games of Cincinnati's National League Wild Card lead.

"Before I met [Cain], I already knew him because of all the good things that everybody was saying about him," manager Felipe Alou said. "Everything came to be true. He's getting better every outing."

Part of that improvement comes from a sense of focus and purpose that Cain is still learning.

"He realizes the importance of every pitch now, as opposed to a lot of pitches that he didn't have much concentration on," Alou said. "I believe right now, every time he throws a pitch to the plate, he has some thought behind it, some strategy."

In a 122-pitch effort, the right-hander held the Reds to four hits, striking out nine to give him 144 punchouts for the year. His eighth strikeout of the game pushed him into fifth place on the Giants franchise list for strikeouts in a season by a rookie pitcher.

Cain got off to a strong start when he eased through a 1-2-3 first inning, which included his first two strikeouts of the game -- one to Ken Griffey Jr.

"I just really wanted to come out and establish the strike zone early, and I was able to do that," Cain said.

But Griffey nearly nullified that beginning, as well as Cain's scoreless outing in his next at-bat, when he roped a line drive into the cavernous 421-foot right-center field alley at AT&T Park. The slugger popped career home run No. 562 to the same part of the park Friday night.

Griffey's drive smacked off the top of the wall, some six inches from actually clearing it. He was able to hustle into second base for a double, before two more strikeouts stranded him there.

"Thankfully, good ballpark," Cain said of containing Griffey's shot. "It was a changeup that I left up, and he just crushed it."

Cain's dazzling performance was aided by a big offensive day for the Giants. Ray Durham's first-inning RBI single gave the Giants a quick 1-0 lead, and two runs were plated the next inning when Pedro Feliz and Eliezer Alfonzo scored on a bloop single by Omar Vizquel.

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Shea Hillenbrand also had a big afternoon, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Hillenbrand, who was batting .228 entering Saturday's game, ended the homestand with a .252 batting average and a four-game hitting streak (8-for-15).

"I feel real comfortable right now," Hillenbrand said. "It's just one of those things where baseball's crazy sometimes, and you go through some downs in the season, and you pile that on some other things."

Alou has seen this type of production from Hillenbrand before, and he hopes the infielder can carry it through the remainder of the season.

"The way he's swinging, we've seen that before," Alou said. "He could carry a team for weeks."

Barry Bonds was another big offensive contributor. After receiving a day off Saturday, the left fielder had a 3-for-3 afternoon Sunday, knocking a double off the right-field wall and drawing his 100th walk of the season. It marks the 13th time in his 21-year career that he's walked at least 100 times, tying him with Babe Ruth for the most in Major League history.

Bonds was unavailable for comment after the game.

"[Bonds] looks pretty good out there, especially after an off-day," Alou said.

While Alou was more than pleased to see Bonds' two-single, one-double effort, he understands that fans are also hoping to see the slugger dump a few balls into McCovey Cove.

"Well, right now I don't believe he's getting pitches to hit homers," Alou said. "He's getting pitches to do what he's doing now, and we need that. A walk and a single is the same thing, but the single drives in runs."

Coley Harvey is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.