Sunday's game is all that remains in San Francisco's season, and it promises plenty of drama -- at least for those diehards already wondering when the Giants report to Scottsdale, Ariz., next February for Spring Training. The Giants must win to finish 72-90 and exceed last year's victory total by one. San Francisco will try to avoid its third consecutive season-series loss to the Dodgers, who are 9-8 against the Giants. And, of course, Tim Lincecum will attempt to raise his profile in the National League Cy Young Award race, which apparently includes not only Arizona's Brandon Webb, but also the New York Mets' Johan Santana.
Game 161 began with former first baseman J.T. Snow's cameo appearance under a one-day contract, which allowed him to retire as a Giant. The tribute was as well-choreographed as it was brief. Having received a huge ovation when he was announced as part of the starting lineup, Snow sprinted alone to his position before the first inning, accompanied by a cameraman and more cheers. The other Giants joined him an instant later. After Snow's fellow infielders teased him with wild warmup throws, he jogged back to the dugout before the game started, prompting handshakes and hugs from the other infielders and Cain along the way.
What followed was a typical Cain-Maddux matchup. Cain fell to 0-6 in 11 lifetime starts against Los Angeles and 0-4 with a 3.52 ERA in seven confrontations against Maddux. Predictably, in those games, Maddux is 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA against Cain while pitching for San Diego and Los Angeles.
"He's caused me a lot of stress. A lot
," Cain said. "Every time it seems like he and I match up, it's 1-0 or 2-1."
The Giants didn't help themselves after Maddux departed. Chad Billingsley allowed singles to the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning, but Eugenio Velez was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double and Nate Schierholtz was caught stealing.
"The silver lining is, I don't think we left anybody on base," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said dryly. In fact, it was the ninth time since the Giants moved West in 1958 that they had no runners left on base, and the first occasion since July 22, 2000, against the Dodgers.
Cain primarily ran afoul of Blake DeWitt. The Los Angeles second baseman homered with one out in the third inning and lashed an RBI single in the seventh. That support sufficed for Maddux (8-13), who yielded two hits, threw only 47 pitches and hiked his lifetime record against San Francisco to 31-15. The future Hall of Famer also moved past Roger Clemens into eighth all-time with his 355th victory.
"I wish we could get all his secrets, but I don't think he'll ever tell them," Cain said.
Cain's finish -- 8-14 with a 3.76 ERA -- closely resembled last year's 7-16, 3.65 mark. When asked if he believed he pitched better this season, he responded affirmatively.
"There's still lots of things to improve on," Cain said. "Obviously, there were a lot of games I felt like I could have won and should have won and I pitched my way into a loss. Those are always really frustrating."
Asked about unconfirmed yet intriguing rumors that he could be involved in a trade -- since the Giants might try extreme measures to land a slugger this offseason -- Cain replied, "I hope not. I like it here, the whole staff, everything. They treat me well."
Cain was replaced by Billy Sadler, who yielded Matt Kemp's two-out triple, but escaped the eighth by slipping a called third strike past Casey Blake. Sadler openly exulted before striding toward the dugout, much as he did on Aug. 9, when he celebrated a strikeout of Manny Ramirez by pumping his fists.
This time, Blake yelled at Sadler, and so did Kemp as they crossed paths. Sadler didn't turn his head, but Kemp kept jawing, and suddenly pitching coach Dave Righetti led the Giants' charge out of the dugout. The Dodgers' dugout emptied, but order was quickly restored.
Bochy, who had turned his back and didn't see Sadler's reaction, didn't harshly criticize the right-hander, but sounded less than thrilled.
"It's one thing to get excited, but you aren't here to show anybody up," Bochy said. "I don't think he realizes what he's doing. ... This is something we have talked to him about."
Said Sadler, "I'm so focused in the zone, it has nothing to do with disrespecting the hitter. I'm excited because I did my job. I came in to help my team get in a situation to win the game. There's nothing wrong with showing emotion about that."
Quizzed about television replays indicating that he muttered something to Kemp, Sadler said enigmatically, "I'm just an average Joe trying to do my job."
Righetti declined to comment, and both Blake and Kemp downplayed the incident.
"He showed emotion. Apparently that's his gig," Blake said. "If that's his deal, fine. He was excited. It's over with. I don't care."
"It was uncalled for," Kemp said. "We were up, 2-1. I could kind of understand if the bases were loaded and it was a 3-2 pitch and he won the game, I'd do it. It was a little over the top. I didn't think the benches would clear. I didn't think [Righetti] said anything to me. It wasn't that big of a deal. Nothing bad came of it."