SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain was denied another chance at baseball immortality by being removed after five no-hit innings Sunday. But the right-hander achieved posterity by becoming the sixth pitcher to win 100 games for San Francisco since the franchise moved west in 1958, as he earned the decision in
SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain was denied another chance at baseball immortality by being removed after five no-hit innings Sunday. But the right-hander achieved posterity by becoming the sixth pitcher to win 100 games for San Francisco since the franchise moved west in 1958, as he earned the decision in the Giants' 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.
The confrontation between National League division leaders resulted in a split of the four-game series. San Francisco finished the showdown with its first back-to-back triumphs since the All-Star break.
Making his third start since recovering from an injured right hamstring, Cain's pitch count reached 93 before he left the game, an exit prompted by manager Bruce Bochy's concern over taxing his arm.
"It got to the point where I figured that was enough," Bochy said.
Cain, who flashed his top form by striking out the side in the third inning, thus missed out on an opportunity to approach the perfect game he recorded against Houston in 2012. But his effort was enough to lift him into San Francisco's select group of triple-digit winners that consists of Juan Marichal (238), Gaylord Perry (134), Tim Lincecum (108), Kirk Rueter (105) and Mike McCormick (104).
"It's fantastic," Cain said of joining this pantheon. "To be able to win that 100th game with the team that drafted you and has gone through everything with you is very memorable."
Cain's fellow pitchers got into the Giants' offensive act, as Madison Bumgarner, the Paul Bunyanesque left-hander, added to his legend by lining a pinch-hit double that generated a run when pinch-runner Jeff Samardzija scored on an error.
Bryce Harper christened the sixth inning with a solid single off George Kontos for the Nats' first hit. Washington collected just two other hits. The Nationals brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth inning but couldn't score.
"I think we always try and win a series," Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "We had a really good chance to win the series, but they're a good team, they're a first-place team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bullpen boost: Bequeathing a slender 2-0 lead to San Francisco's relief corps, Cain obviously needed help to emerge with his big victory. He got that assistance. Kontos yielded a run but fanned Danny Espinosa to strand two runners before Hunter Strickland, Javier López, Derek Law and Santiago Casilla proceeded to blank Washington.
"The bullpen did a great job to be able to shut the door and get things done," an appreciative Cain said.
Innings needed: With their bullpen taxed from the past few days of usage, the Nationals needed a solid outing from Gonzalez, and he delivered. He allowed two runs, although only one was earned, on six hits in six solid innings.
"It was one of those games you're going to have to battle and keep the game as close as possible," Gonzalez said. "I wanted to go deep in the game today; I wanted to make sure we had some rest in the bullpen."
After an erratic first half, Gonzalez has pitched well lately. In his last four starts he has posted a 2.25 ERA while opponents have batted just .207 against him.
"He's throwing strikes, No. 1," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He's not walking people, getting out of some jams when he gets in them."
Off the bench: Giants center fielder Denard Span was expected to rest his sore left quadriceps for a second straight day. Instead, he lashed a pinch-hit triple to open the seventh inning and generate a much-needed run.
"Honestly, I was thinking it was just a double," Span said. "I wasn't sure where the outfielders were playing. Then once I got halfway to second, I realized that they were still going, so I said, 'I got to go now. I've come this far.'"
Uncharacteristic errors: The Nationals made a pair of key errors that led to both Giants runs. Gonzalez had nearly pitched out of a jam with runners at the corners in the third inning, when he forced Ángel Pagán to bounce into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but second baseman Trea Turner made a throwing error to second base as the run scored. Then Gonzalez nearly stranded a runner at third with no outs in the fifth when he got Hunter Pence to bounce toward third base, but Anthony Rendon fired an errant throw toward first to allow the run to score.
"They've been good all year," Gonzalez said. "It's just one of those situations where you turn the page and move forward. These guys, they've been doing this all year."
Zimmerman's sore left wrist: Zimmerman had his left wrist wrapped after he was struck by an errant pitch from Casilla in the ninth. Zimmerman said the wrist was sore and indicated he had an X-ray, although he did not know the results. The crowd booed Zimmerman, who fell to the ground after he got hit and had to be checked on by Baker and the team's athletic trainers. Zimmerman took exception to their reaction, and after a replay review confirmed the hit-by-pitch, he tipped his helmet at the fans as he walked to first base.
"That's one thing I would never do is fake something like that," he said. "I think I have more respect for the game; even if I'm hitting .100, I'm not going to try and fake my way on base."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Harper will no doubt be happy to move on from the month of July. Even though he had a hit and a walk Sunday afternoon, he completed perhaps the worst month of his career, batting .176/.303/.319 with four home runs and just five extra-base hits.
Nationals: The Nats head to Arizona for the final leg of this three-city, nine-game road trip to begin a three-game series with the D-backs at 9:40 p.m. ET on Monday. Stephen Strasburg will take the mound after throwing seven scoreless innings last time out against the Indians.
Giants: Monday will be a scheduled off-day for the Giants, who will embark on their second straight three-city trip that includes East Coast stops. They'll resume activity Tuesday in Philadelphia, where Bumgarner will oppose right-hander Zack Eflin in a 4:05 p.m. PT encounter.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.