SAN FRANCISCO -- Before Wednesday's game against the Giants, Nationals catcher Brian Schneider was glancing at Matt Cain's stats and was surprised to see that the San Francisco right-hander was 3-12 for the 2007 season. Last year, Cain was one of the Giants' best starters and won 13 games. During his career, he held the Nationals to a .194 batting average. On Wednesday, Washington saw the vintage Cain as it was blanked by the Giants, 5-0, in front of 42,991 fans at AT&T Park. The Nationals had a game plan when it came to Cain: run up his pitch count. They succeeded, as Cain threw 106 pitches, but Washington still had a tough time getting on base.
Cain lasted six innings and gave up just three hits. He struck out three and walked one. Washington had runners in scoring position only once against the right-hander and that occurred in the first inning, when Felipe Lopez led off with a single and stole second base with Ronnie Belliard at the plate. "His fastball was in the upper high-90s. His changeups were 88 to 90 [miles per hour]. His sliders were 86. He had good stuff tonight," Schneider said of Cain. "It's not easy catching up to 96 miles per hour." Cain even helped himself with the bat in the fifth inning against right-hander Tim Redding. With the count 1-2, Schneider was looking for a curveball near the dirt, but Redding hung it and Cain parked the ball over the left-field wall for his first home run of his career. "The thought process was try and throw it down in the zone and get him to bite at it," Redding said. "Unfortunately, Cain caught the better part of the bat and hit it out." Talk to Redding about his overall outing and he will tell you he gave a poor effort. He said that he wasn't around the plate as he was during his previous six starts. However, he lasted seven innings and gave up four runs on six hits. "It was good that I was able to go out there and keep battling and go seven innings, but ultimately, whether I saved the bullpen or peddled for seven innings, the results are still the same. It's a loss. I'm responsible," Redding said. "I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I made some bad pitches. Even the good pitches that were hit, they were hit with two outs. Once you get those two outs in the inning, [you have to] get that last out." But manager Manny Acta thought Redding was solid in seven innings and said the game was lost because the offense couldn't figure out Cain. "I though [Redding] did a very good job. He gave us a chance," Acta said." He made a couple of mistakes, but everybody does. He pitched seven innings and gave our bullpen a rest. We just couldn't anything going offensively." Washington was already behind the eight-ball by the first inning. After Randy Winn walked with two outs, Barry Bonds came to the plate. During the first two games of the series, Washington fed Bonds a steady diet of breaking balls away from the plate. Redding and Schneider decided to try their luck and pitch him inside with a fastball. There was a good reason behind their decision. According to the scouting report, Bonds doesn't have a good batting average and had hit just five home runs when a pitcher gives him a fastball on the inner part of the plate. But Bonds showed why he is one of the smartest hitters of all time. Redding threw the 1-1 pitch and hit a two-run shot into McCovey Cove. It was Bonds' 757th home run, while Redding became the 447th pitcher to give up a home run to Bonds. "I thought I set up the 1-0 changeup, which he swung through pretty good. Schneider and I both thought that a fastball in was the right call," Redding said. "I looked at the replay on the computer three times. The ball is on the black of the plate, if not half a ball off the plate. But the guy hit 756 home runs before tonight, so it's not like he's guessing all the time. He does what he does." In the fifth, besides the Cain home run, Dave Roberts came home on a single by Omar Vizquel.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.