SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Matt Cain awkwardly crammed all of his souvenirs onto the top shelf of his locker. One ball signified his first complete game, while another represented his first major league hit—and there was a third with a significance he couldn’t remember.
If the 20-year-old right-hander can keep up this auspicious start to his career, he’ll need a bigger shelf very soon.
Cain pitched an electrifying two-hitter in his third major league start, and fellow rookie Dan Ortmeier got his first RBI with a tiebreaking single in the San Francisco Giants’ 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.
The Giants’ next great hope for a homegrown pitching star beat Jerome Williams, his former minor league teammate, with one of the most impressive starts all season in San Francisco. Afterward, Cain exuded the nonchalant excitement of a natural athlete who always expects to be good at what he does.
“That’s definitely a different feeling to go straight to the catcher, then walk back to the mound and shake everybody’s hand,” said Cain, whose only previous complete game as a pro was a seven-inning outing in the minors. “I’m giving effort. I just try to stay really calm. I find that works for me. If I stay calm and relaxed, my body does what it’s supposed to do.”
Cain (2-1) was a picture of preternatural calm in a game that ended in 2 hours, 6 minutes while he traded quick outs with Williams (5-8), who pitched seven strong innings. Cain retired seven straight batters before Derrek Lee’s leadoff homer in the fourth inning—and he then retired his next 15 hitters, many with fastballs topping 95 mph.
Jerry Hairston got a leadoff single in the ninth, but Cain finished off Chicago with three first-pitch outs, including Jeromy Burnitz’s soft grounder to second base to end it.
“I have to say I haven’t seen very many guys like that,” said Giants manager Felipe Alou, who’s 49 years older than Cain. “At 20, that delivery, that breaking ball, that power and that changeup, you have to go back to the days of Tom Seaver.”
Cain struck out eight to the delight of a chilled crowd in San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark. He also scored the Giants’ first run—and he even got his first major league hit on a seventh-inning double off the wall in left.
Cain allowed two baserunners in the first inning, when Neifi Perez walked and Burnitz struck out but reached base on a wild pitch. Nobody else except Lee reached until the ninth.
“He basically did it with his fastball,” Lee said. “He was overpowering us. All we heard (before the game) was he threw hard. He located his ball on the outside corner real well.”
The two-hitter featured the lowest hit total in a complete game by a Giants rookie since Dennis Cook did the same on Sept. 25, 1988. He was the youngest Giants pitcher to throw a complete game since 1960.
Cain was the youngest debut starter for the Giants in 21 years when he lost to Colorado on Aug. 29. He pitched seven impressive innings Sunday at Arizona for his first victory.
The Giants snapped their three-game losing streak while sending the Cubs to just their second loss in eight games on their road trip.
Williams was outstanding in his first start against the team that traded him on May 28, but he couldn’t beat his former minor league teammate. Williams yielded seven hits and one earned run, but the Cubs made two errors behind him — and Cain was nearly perfect.
“I knew Matt when he first came into the (Giants’) system,” said Williams, who joked with Cain on the field after Williams grounded back to the mound in the fourth. “I don’t like him, because he got a hit off me. He’s a good young kid.”
Ortmeier, recalled from Double-A Norwich last weekend for his first big league stint, thwarted a rally with a double-play grounder in the second. He made up for it in the sixth when Moises Alou walked and Ray Durham singled before Ortmeier poked a two-out single to left.
While the Giants checked out their young talent, their most prominent veteran moved closer to his imminent comeback.
Barry Bonds made more progress before the game in his rehabilitation from three knee operations. After taking batting practice and running in the outfield, the 41-year-old slugger said he could return Saturday—but he expects his doctor to keep him out until at least Sunday.
San Francisco scored an unearned run in the third inning with a rally featuring Randy Winn’s double, but Chicago tied it in the fourth with Lee’s 41st homer. Lee, a Sacramento native, tied his career high with his 98th RBI.
RHP Brett Tomko will start for the Giants in Sunday’s series finale. RHP Kevin Correia will get a bit longer to rest the bone bruise in his right shoulder. … Williams was drafted by the Giants in 1999 with the 39th overall pick. He went 10-9 in parts of two seasons with San Francisco. … The Giants beat Chicago for the second time in five meetings this season.