First inning continues to vex Cain
Giants starter goes five scoreless frames after bad opening
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first inning has been the roughest for Matt Cain through much of the spring and for the Giants in the last two days.Cain instantly yielded five runs Sunday, which represented the Los Angeles Angels' only scoring in their 5-2 exhibition victory over a split-squad of Giants. This followed two-run first innings that Cain endured in his previous two outings. Cain's largesse also continued a pattern for the Giants, who allowed 12 first-inning runs in Saturday's split-squad games against Oakland (eight) and Seattle (four). But Cain adjusted, becoming the first Giant to last six innings this spring. He allowed four hits in his final five innings, permitting only two runners to reach second base. Cain explained that he threw "downhill" more efficiently after the first inning once pitching coach Dave Righetti pointed out that he was landing too stiffly on his front (left) leg. This technical flaw caused Cain to elevate his pitches, including fastballs out of the strike zone that Vladimir Guerrero rapped for an RBI double ("That's normal for Vlad," Cain said) and Casey Kotchman fought off for a two-run single. "They're definitely a good fastball-hitting team if it's up. That's not something you want to do," Cain said. "But it's something you can learn from and make an adjustment earlier." Bloop singles by Gary Matthews Jr. and Howie Kendrick, along with second baseman Ray Durham's fielding error, also victimized Cain. But the inning might have unfolded much differently had Cain capitalized on a pickoff attempt instead of botching it. With Angels on the corners and nobody out, Cain trapped Matthews off first base and ran at him, exactly as pitchers are taught to do. But Cain threw too late to first base as Matthews retreated. "I was thinking for some reason about [Chone] Figgins running at third instead of just getting the out," Cain said, admitting that he executed the play poorly. "Even if he does run, [first baseman] Richie [Aurilia] has a better view than I do."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.