Lyle Spencer

NL starter: The case for Cain

NL starter: The case for Cain

NL starter: The case for Cain
Matt Cain doesn't reach triple digits on radar guns or throw a trick pitch. He's as predictable as sunrise. Fastball, breaking ball, change, precision with everything, take a seat and good night.

What separates the Giants' sturdy right-hander from the pack are the boy scout qualities he takes to the mound -- dependability, reliability, generosity of spirit -- and his absolute refusal ever to step out of character and be something other than the good soldier.

No pitcher in the game has received less offensive support since he broke into the rotation in 2006. There has been no hint of complaint from Cain. This endears a guy to those around him and makes for healthy team chemistry.

Cain reached the summit of his profession on June 13, delivering a perfect game with 14 strikeouts against the Houston Astros at AT&T Park in San Francisco. He was just as impressive in teammates' eyes the following day as normal life resumed.

"He's as even-keeled a player as I've ever seen -- and I've seen a lot of players," said Giants reliever Shane Loux, a well-traveled veteran. "I watch film of him to study how he handles situations.

"The guy throws a perfect game, and the next day he's the exact same person -- not that you'd expect anything else from him."

It wasn't the first time Cain was perfect. In the 2010 postseason, a ride never to be forgotten by Giants fans, the big man with roots in Alabama and Tennessee did not allow an earned run in 21 1/3 innings of three games in helping drive his team to San Francisco's first World Series title.

R.A. Dickey is having a season for the ages, and Stephen Strasburg has replaced Cain's teammate, Tim Lincecum, as "The Freak" with his otherworldly stuff. If you're looking for the flavor of the moment, Dickey and Strasburg are tasty options.

Cain is simply able, as consistent as vanilla on apple pie. That might be his problem. He hasn't achieved anything close to the national profile his talents and production warrant.

Cain is having a fairly typical season, apart from the 9-3 record. He owns a 2.62 ERA while giving manager Bruce Bochy a National League high 120 1/3 innings with a 0.956 WHIP.

Cain addresses his season in collective terms.

"We're all doing a lot of things right," Cain said, going on to praise the offense, defense, bullpen, clubhouse manager Mike Murphy, the vendors and the grounds, radio and television crews.

His 78-76 career record is MLB's most deceiving stat. It is accompanied by a 3.29 ERA and the distinction of never having missed a start.

Bochy doesn't hesitate in singling out his new ace, in the face of Lincecum's baffling struggles.

"Matt's unflappable, and that comes from being mentally strong and having to deal with tough times," Bochy said. "He's had to deal with more of it than anybody on this club. These players are out to win, but they like to see their numbers look good, too.

"He never wavers. He's lost some tough ones where he gave up a hit or two, but he never shows frustration, never points fingers, [said], `Oh, pitiful me.'"

Bochy would love to see Cain rewarded with an All-Star Game start.

"It'd be great to see something like that happen," Bochy said. "Not just because of the tough luck he's had, but because of the way he handled it."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.