Career well done: Cain outstanding in last start

Right-hander pitches five scoreless innings, leaves to standing ovations

Career well done: Cain outstanding in last start

SAN FRANCISCO -- Even in his last game, right up until his final pitch, Matt Cain continued to assert his presence and define himself as a pitcher.

He gave absolutely everything he had during the Giants' 3-2 loss to the Padres on Saturday, which was what the ballclub and its fans grew accustomed to during his matchless 13-year tenure with San Francisco.

Cain's career is the longest by any player to remain exclusively with the Giants throughout the franchise's San Francisco history. Cain finished 104-118, a sub-.500 mark that belied his three All-Star recognitions, his 4-2 record with a 2.10 ERA in eight postseason starts and the only perfect game in franchise history, which he pitched against Houston on June 13, 2012.

Baseball world pays respect to Cain

Never mind that, in this game, he lasted five innings instead of the seven or eight he frequently worked in previous years, when he earned the nickname "The Horse" for his durability. Never mind that his fastball rarely pushed the speedometer past 90 mph, a velocity that Cain regularly exceeded when he played catch.

Cain recognized by fans

And never mind that Cain was handicapped by inactivity, having made his preceding appearance Aug. 31. He blanked the Padres, allowing just two hits and walking one. Cain ended his stint and his career with a 78-mph curveball that opposing pitcher Jhoulys Chacin grounded to shortstop.

"I don't think I had any more heaters in me," said Cain, who turns 33 on Sunday.

This game, in its own way, occupied a spot in Cain's permanent pantheon. This collection includes his one-hit shutout at Oakland on May 21, 2006, which ended a one-game bullpen stint and silenced the hogwash about his possibly converting to relieving; his sublime seven-inning, two-hit gem against Philadelphia in Game 3 of the 2010 National League Championship Series; and, of course, his perfect game.

"I think we'll look back at this game as another great memory that we've had with Matt Cain," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy on Cain's scoreless start

A particularly familiar aspect of Cain's performance was the result: a no-decision, The right-hander, who announced his retirement Wednesday, gave the bullpen a 1-0 lead, which dissolved in the sixth inning when Wil Myers homered off Reyes Moronta to tie the score. Such games were common early in Cain's career, when the offensively challenged Giants wasted many of his better efforts.

This did not spoil the daylong salute to Cain, which was marked by ovation after ovation. He drew strength from them -- "The fans were just willing me along" -- though his hearing was partly selective.

"I think I could hear two or three guys in the stands, for some reason, [saying] 'C'mon, Cainer, you can do this.'"

Plainly exhausted but just as obviously determined, Cain walked Cory Spangenberg on four pitches to open the fifth inning. "This can't be the way you end it," Cain said to himself. Bochy visited to the mound to chat with Cain, who appeared destined to leave the game -- prompting boos from many fans. To their delight, Bochy left Cain on the mound.

Cain rewarded Bochy's faith by retiring the next three hitters. Hunter Renfroe flied out to deep center field, and Austin Hedges struck out before Chacin grounded out to shortstop. That left Cain's pitch count at 73, which approximated the maximum Bochy said he would throw.

Cain's final Major League out

Bochy embraced Cain in front of the dugout steps, indicating that the hurler had thrown his last pitch. Catcher Buster Posey then added to his history of "Buster Hugs" by grabbing Cain, though this one didn't feature a running start from behind the plate.

Cain doffed his cap and raised both arms to reciprocate the sentiment of the roaring fans. Ultimately, he would fling that cap into the stands upon retreating into the dugout. Before that, Cain placed his cap over his heart to demonstrate the sincerity of his emotion and pointed toward the Padres' dugout in a sign of respect for his opponents -- which never deserted him during his 342-game big league career.

Cain on his final start

"That was one of the cooler things I've seen," Myers said. "I'm lucky enough to have seen [Mariano] Rivera get taken out of the game. I was actually on deck when he got taken out of the game. That was probably number one, but this was really cool. I didn't get to face Matt Cain a ton. But just to know what he's done in his career, how good of a career he's had, to be able to see his final outing was really cool."

The first man to embrace Cain in the Giants' dugout was, fittingly enough, pitching coach Dave Righetti, a nurturing figure throughout his career. The last was left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who has bonded with Cain while sharing his stern mound demeanor and memorable effectiveness.

"Guys were crying in the dugout," Bochy said.

They had reason to be moved. They understood what Cain has represented.

"He's going to go down as one of the great Giants," Bochy said.

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.