View Full Game Coverage
LOUIS -- The tenor of this National League Championship Series changed dramatically as the Giants' 7-1 victory in Game 2 on Monday squared matters with the Cardinals.
For a change, we aren't even alluding to the Matt Holliday take-out slide into Marco Scutaro that remained the talk of Busch Stadium on Tuesday, and which has unquestionably spiked the emotional meter of the series.
This is all about Matt Cain, the ace of San Francisco's rotation. Because his start in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Reds delayed Cain's NLCS debut until Game 3, the Giants faced the prospect of having their best starter go only once if the Cardinals made quick work of them.
But now we're looking at a best-out-of-five, with Cain set up to take the ball twice in the shorter series. His start here on Wednesday positions him to go in a potential Game 7 on Monday at AT&T Park on regular four days' rest.
This leaves the Giants in a very good place, and their manager in a very good mood.
"His talent and his makeup," Bruce Bochy said, giving the short list of the right-hander's virtues. "He's got four pitches, and his makeup is off the charts. He's so consistent. He goes out there and gives everything he's got every time."
Cain will be up against two variables, neither under his control.
Forecast of rain for the mid-afternoon start jeopardizes his pregame routine, while also raising the possibility of a delay early in the game shortening his start -- as happened to Detroit's Justin Verlander in Game 1 of last year's American League Championship Series, when multiple delays finally shelved him after only four innings in Texas.
Of that, Cain simply said, "I'm going into it like normal, and we'll just play it from there. That's all you can do."
The other element involves the perception that inside pitches to Holliday, important to Cain in a strategic sense, carry a message.
"You have to pitch your game," Cain insisted. "If something gets away from you inside, that's kinda part of the game. You can't be afraid to pitch inside."
Key stat: In his only other NLCS start, Game 3 in 2010, Cain pitched seven innings of scoreless two-hit ball.
Key stat: In his first two postseason starts this year, Lohse is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA over 12 2/3 innings pitched.
At Busch Stadium
2012: 1 GS, 0-1, 7.94 ERA Career: 3 GS, 0-2, 8.27 ERA
2012: 16 GS, 8-1, 2.33 ERA Career: 73 GS, 30-17, 3.40 ERA
Against this opponent
2012: 2 GS, 1-1, 6.94 ERA Career: 8 GS, 2-3, 4.94 ERA
2012: N/A Career: 5 GS, 3-2, 3.78 ERA
Loves to face: Matt Holliday: 8-for-40, 10 K Hates to face: Carlos Beltran: 7-for-18, 1 HR, 5 RBIs
Loves to face: Aubrey Huff: 5-for-27, 4 K Hates to face: Ryan Theriot: 12-for-22, 2 2B, 3 3B
Why he'll win: Dating back to the middle of August, Cain has lost only one start -- Game 1 of the NLDS, in which he allowed three runs on five hits over five innings.
Why he'll win: Run support was the only reason Lohse didn't pick up a win in Game 4 of the NLDS. He lasted seven innings and gave up just one run on two hits.
Pitcher beware: Cain hasn't escaped the sixth inning in either of his two starts this postseason.
Pitcher beware: Lohse's only other NLCS start came in Game 4 last season, when he allowed three runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Bottom line: After a career year, Cain is just the pitcher the Giants want on the mound as the series heads to St. Louis.
Bottom line: After winning a career-high 16 games in the regular season, Lohse has continued his brilliance into the postseason.
Cain pitching for the lead reinforces the popular belief that Game 3 is the pivotal match in any seven-game series. Joe Torre subscribed to that theory, the reason Andy Pettitte had always been the Yankees' designated Game 3 starter, when allowed by scheduling.
This time, Cain doesn't have to lead, just follow the example Ryan Vogelsong set with his seven innings of four-hit, one-run pitching in Monday night's win.
"That was big for us," Cain said. "We haven't been pulling our weight as a starting staff. And Vogey really did a good job of that. We all definitely needed that. And hopefully, that right there sparks us to all pitch as well as he did."
Cain always expects that of himself. In fact. while others might talk glowingly of the stuff on his pitches, the pitcher himself considers his inner stuff his biggest asset.
"Just the will to win. Even on the days I don't have my good stuff, I feel like I'm going to try to find ways to get through that," he said. "And I think that's something I try to do, and hopefully, the guys can feed off that and pick me up the days that I don't have the good stuff."
In the San Francisco rotation, Cain is the clean-shaven one. He also is the one who pitched one perfect game in 2012, and came within a sixth-inning single by mound foe James McDonald of pitching two of them.
The right-hander will make this start on five days' rest, and he has been exceptional this season in those circumstances, losing only one of 12 starts while putting up a sharp 2.42 ERA.
One conclusion reached from that trend is that, with experience, Cain had learned to adjust his routine to the extra day between starts. Historically, before 2012 it had been a problem, as he had been 22-31 on five days' rest.
Cain brushed all that off, saying, "Just coincidence. I didn't even know about that."
He does know that the Cardinals have given him a hard time. Playing out of different divisions, they meet infrequently, and the Redbirds have hit him to the tune of a 4.94 ERA in eight starts.
"From top to bottom, they have a bunch of guys that can hit home runs. But they're not all trying to do that at the same time," Cain said, implying he has to attack the St. Louis lineup with a varied game plan. "They're all trying also to hit for a decent average, so they don't go up there with the same plan of trying to hit home runs. They can work counts and do different things and move guys around the bases, too."
Being deferred to Game 3 also means that Cain will be making his start as the NLCS switches to Busch Stadium. That isn't a negative; having your most reliable arm on the hill as the venue shifts into enemy territory can provide considerable security.
Cain actually had a better record on the road (8-2) than at home (8-3), simply a byproduct of the Giants flexing more offensive muscle outside of AT&T Park. In fewer innings on the road, Cain allowed nearly twice as many runs (47 compared to 26).
His fortunes in two 2012 starts against the Cardinals reflected that dichotomy: On May 17, he beat the Redbirds at home, although certainly not at his best, allowing four runs in six innings of a 7-5 win; in early August, he dropped an 8-2 decision in St. Louis.