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Cain leaves unable Rangers reeling back to Texas


SAN FRANCISCO -- Texas has a lot of problems in this World Series, stunning and shocking problems.

So many problems it's not even worth hauling out the "Ten Gallon Hat" or "Texas-sized" references. This is far more serious than that.

But in a Game 2 that was pretty good for seven innings before the Rangers suffered an epic bullpen meltdown in the eighth, no problem was more serious for the Rangers than Matt Cain.

Fact is, no problem has been more serious for any San Francisco postseason opponent than Cain, who is to rival bats this month what a chainsaw is to a tree stump.

After he mowed through the Phillies last week in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series, I wrote that it was the "signature game" of his career.

Consider the Giants' 9-0 roasting of the Rangers in Cain's first career World Series start the kid's new John Hancock. That, or simply one more masterpiece in a growing Signature Collection.

"Sheer dominance," San Francisco closer Brian Wilson marveled.

"He's probably the most under-the-radar, top-of-the-line pitcher there is in the game right now," said veteran Mark DeRosa, who has had a front-row seat for much of this Giants' season from his perch on the disabled list after a wrist injury wrecked his season. "One of them.

"He doesn't get the mass appeal. ..."

Pitching like this, on this stage, is exactly how mass appeal will find him.

Cain entered the game as the first pitcher to not allow an earned run in either of his first two postseason starts since Atlanta's Steve Avery in 1991. He departed after 7 2/3 innings having not allowed a run in his first three postseason starts.

The Rangers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position against Cain, who now is up to 21 1/3 scoreless postseason innings. Think October agrees with this young man? Opponents now are 1 for 15 against him this postseason with runners in scoring position. He's produced more bagels than Einstein's the past three weeks.

Only two Giants pitchers in history have thrown at least 20 innings in one postseason without surrendering an earned run: Christy Mathewson (27 scoreless innings in 1905) and Carl Hubbell (20 in 1933).

Cain, 26 and on the run of his life, turned the Rangers into rubble.

"I thought I had some good at-bats, but at the same time he got me out all three times," Texas catcher Matt Treanor said (fly ball, ground ball, fly ball).

"He got ahead in the count using both sides of the plate," Rangers third baseman Michael Young offered.

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"Two years ago, he threw the heater and slider," said DeRosa, who was with the Cubs then. "Now, he throws a change-up and back-door [breaking] stuff. He's turned it up a notch."

Over the past two seasons, Cain's .195 batting-average-against with runners aboard is the lowest by any starting pitcher in the majors.

With runners in scoring position? Cain's held opponents to a .193 batting average in those situations over the past two seasons, second-best in the majors.

The Quiet Giant from Germantown, Tenn., has been so brilliant during his first foray into the playoffs that experts cannot even agree on the question of if Cain was an animal, which animal would he be?

"He's a bulldog out there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy raved.

"He's a horse out there," Rangers catcher -- and former Giants catcher -- Bengie Molina observed.

"He's been our workhorse," Wilson, the Giants closer, brayed.

One thing we know: He's not a mule.

One other thing we know: The Rangers are in hip-deep right now.

Bottom line is, the Rangers are in trouble unless they figure out this masterful Giants pitching. You can rip the Texas bullpen if you wish -- and you should -- but San Francisco pitching is shredding this Texas lineup like wet toilet paper.

Though you wouldn't know it in their clubhouse. You'd think they must be shocked, shocked, at how the Giants have manhandled them so far, right?

"I don't see that," Molina said, nodding out toward the clubhouse. "Do they look shocked? No. Do they know we're down 2-0? Yes."

That might be the only thing the Rangers know. Five Texas relievers turned what had been a rousing little 2-0 battle fraught with anticipation of what the late innings would bring into an R-rated Giants beatdown. For that, they share culpability with Rangers manager Ron Washington, who inexplicably sat by motionless as the Rangers lost control. Derek Holland stood a far better chance of throwing a strike in a bowling alley than he did on the baseball diamond.

Somehow, a Giants team that spent much of the season on San Francisco street corners panhandling for runs has popped for 20 in two games against Texas.

"It doesn't surprise me so much," said Molina, the ex-Giant-turned-Ranger. "The way they swing the bat, I've seen it.

"What we need to do is find the corners, keep them off balance. That's what we need to do."

That, or slip a colony of termites into the Giants' bat bags before the Series resumes on Saturday.

Really, Edgar Renteria?

Way back when this was still considered an even match, before Renteria provided the only run Cain would need with his fifth-inning long ball, the game took one of those hard rights that only fed the Giants' case of overwhelming, raging confidence.

Ian Kinsler slugged a deep fly to center to start the fifth that appeared to be gone. But in an impromptu test of gravity, physics and geometry, the ball bounced off the top of the wall and somehow angled itself off the padding to bounce backward toward center fielder Andres Torres.

Instead of a homer and a 1-0 Texas lead, Kinsler got a double. Then he got left at second when David Murphy, Matt Treanor and C.J. Wilson were mowed down behind him (Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked before Wilson grounded out).

"I thought it was a home run," Cain said. "I saw it hit and I thought it hit something behind the wall and I thought it was a home run, so I cashed it in as one run. Then I saw Torres had thrown it in and he was standing on second. From there I just said, 'Hey, I've got to try to keep that guy there and we'll just get the next guy, see if we can get the next guy out and see how it works out.'"

For his next trick, Cain will rope calves when the Giants arrive in Texas.

Tough to tell which needs a change of venue more, the Rangers or this World Series.

We'll get one for Game 3, back in Texas on Saturday. But unless the Rangers figure a few things out, this Fall Classic is destined for all the drama of a Saturday afternoon oil change.


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