Cain delivering a pitch at a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011
|San Francisco Giants – No. 18|
October 1, 1984 |
|August 29, 2005, for the San Francisco Giants|
(through August 9, 2015)
|Earned run average||3.44|
|Career highlights and awards|
Matthew Thomas Cain (born October 1, 1984), nicknamed The Horse, Big Daddy, and Big Sugar, is an American professional baseball starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball (MLB). Cain is 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighs 230 pounds (100 kg). He bats and throws right-handed. Cain throws five pitches: a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.
Cain was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft out of high school. He advanced quickly through the minor leagues and made his debut with the Giants in 2005, becoming the youngest player in the National League (NL) that year. In 2006 (his first full season), Cain won 13 games and finished tied for fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Cain had the 10th-best earned run average in the NL in 2007, but he finished second in the league with 16 losses due to poor run support.
In 2009, Cain was named an All-Star for the first time in his career; he won 14 games and had a winning record for the first time since 2006. Cain only won 13 games in 2010, but he saved his best pitching for the playoffs, as he did not allow an earned run any of the three playoff games he pitched in as the Giants won their first World Series since 1954. In 2011, Cain won 12 games and had a 2.88 ER. Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in Major League Baseball history on June 13, 2012. He had a 16–5 record during the regular season, and he finished sixth in NL Cy Young Award voting. He won every series-clinching playoff game for the Giants as they won the 2012 World Series.
- Early life 1
Professional career 2
- Draft and minor leagues 2.1
San Francisco Giants (2005-present) 2.2
- 2005 2.2.1
- 2006 2.2.2
- 2007 2.2.3
- 2008 2.2.4
- 2009 2.2.5
- 2010 2.2.6
- 2011 2.2.7
- Perfect game 184.108.40.206
- 2013 2.2.9
- 2014 2.2.10
- 2015 2.2.11
- Pitching style 3
- Personal life 4
- See also 5
- References 6
- External links 7
Cain was born to Tom and Dolores Cain in Dothan, Alabama. He lived in Vincent, Alabama, for a year when his mother taught at a school nearby. Cain also spent part of his childhood in Germantown, Tennessee, where he attended Houston High School. He took lessons on how to pitch from Mauro Gozzo, who lived near the Cains in Tennessee. As a senior at Houston High School, Cain struck out 83 batters in 62 innings pitched while recording a 1.03 earned run average (ERA).
Draft and minor leagues
Cain was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the first round (25th overall) in the 2002 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft. He began his professional career in 2002 with the rookie Arizona League Giants. In eight games (seven starts), he had an 0–1 record, a 3.72 ERA, 20 strikeouts, and 11 walks in 19 1⁄3 innings pitched. He spent 2003 with the Hagerstown Suns of the Single-A South Atlantic League. In 14 starts for the Suns, he had a 4–4 record, a 2.55 ERA, 90 strikeouts, and 24 walks in 74 innings pitched.
Prior to 2004, Cain was ranked the number two prospect in the Giants' organization (behind
Youngest Player in the
Perfect game pitcher
June 13, 2012
Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League & Tom Wilhelmsen
June 13, 2012
National League All-Star Game Starting Pitcher
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Baggarly, Andrew. A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Chicago: Triumph Books.
- "Matt Cain Statistics".
- Greenberg, Steve (September 30, 2009). "Lincecum on Cain: I just love watching him pitch".
- Sullivan, Tim (October 28, 2010). "‘Big Sugar’ lives up to sweet moniker vs. Texas".
- "PITCHf/x Player Card: Matt Cain". BrooksBaseball.net. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
- Hallman, Wesley (June 18, 2012). "Baseball history maker tied to Vincent". Shelby County Reporter. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- Sencer, Lyle (February 28, 2013). "Encore to year for ages will be tough, but Cain's game".
- Baggarly, p. 268
- Rawitch, Josh (4 June 2002). "Giants go with high school pitcher". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- "Matt Cain Minor League Statistics".
- "Matt Cain".
- Baggarly, Andy (February 22, 2007). "2007 San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects".
- "Matt Cain Stats, Video Highlights, Photos, Bio".
- Draper, Rich (March 14, 2005). "Cain is able in a big league way".
- "2005 Pacific Coast League Pitching Leaders".
- Bowles, CJ (August 26, 2005). "Giants bring up top prospect Cain".
- Draper, Rich (August 30, 2005). "Cain, Giants pleased with debut".
- "September 4, 2005 San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks".
- "September 9, 2005 Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants".
- Draper, Rich (February 18, 2006). "Cain setting sights on success".
- Draper, Rich (June 25, 2009). "Giants fall to A's in Bay series finale".
- "Matt Cain 2006 Pitching Gamelogs".
- "April 24, 2006 New York Mets at San Francisco Giants".
- Draper, Rich (May 21, 2006). "Rookie Cain twirls shutout for Giants".
- Kuttner, Tony (June 20, 2006). "For Cain, nothing but domination".
- Harvey, Coley (September 9, 2006). "Notes: No debate about Cain's value".
- "Baseball Awards Voting for 2006".
- Haft, Chris (April 5, 2007). "Bonds homers, but Giants fall to Padres".
- "Matt Cain 2007 Pitching Gamelogs".
- Haft, Chris (September 16, 2007). "One hit too much for unlucky Cain".
- Haft, Chris (August 8, 2007). "Cain snakebitten against Padres".
- Haft, Chris (August 9, 2007). "Cain takes cue from Bonds with homer".
- Haft, Chris (August 23, 2007). "Cain homers, handles Cubs in win".
- "2007 National League Pitching Leaders".
- Shea, John (April 13, 2008). "Another crusher for Cain".
- Eymer, Rick (April 12, 2008). "Giants waste Cain's heroics".
- Haft, Chris (May 14, 2008). "Cain's arm, bat lead Giants to victory".
- Haft, Chris (June 15, 2008). "Cain's solid start falls by wayside".
- "Matt Cain 2008 Pitching Gamelogs".
- Addcox, Jayson (July 2, 2008). "Cain sparkles as Giants beat Cubs".
- Biderman, David (July 24, 2008). "Remember Cain? Nats want to forget".
- "2008 National League Pitching Leaders".
- Haft, Chris (May 18, 2009). "Cain shuts down Mets offense".
- Haft, Chris (May 24, 2009). "Giants go large late to top Seattle".
- Haft, Chris (June 5, 2009). "Giants take rain-shortened nightcap".
- Haft, Chris (June 14, 2009). "Schierholtz stars as Giants sweep A's".
- Haft, Chris (July 5, 2009). "Lincecum, Cain named Giants All-Stars".
- Langosch, Jenifer (July 12, 2009). "Duke replaces Cain on NL All-Star roster".
- Grodsky, Jason (August 3, 2009). "Homers do damage to Cain in loss".
- Haft, Chris (September 25, 2009). "Cain wins Giants' Willie Mac Award".
- "2009 National League Pitching Leaders".
- Haft, Chris (March 30, 2010). "Wellemeyer 'lucky' to be with Giants".
- "Madison Bumgarner 2010 Pitching Gamelogs".
- Haft, Chris (May 22, 2010). "Cain's complete game can't save Giants".
- Haft, Chris (May 29, 2010). "Cain twirls one-hit shutout to down D-backs".
- "Matt Cain 2010 Pitching Gamelogs".
- Haft, Chris (August 2, 2010). "Cain finally beats Dodgers to seal sweep".
- Haft, Chris (September 26, 2012). "Cain misses no-no in complete-game win".
- "2010 National League Pitching Leaders".
- "Baseball Awards Voting for 2010".
- Haft, Chris (October 9, 2010). "Giants squander chance to take big series lead".
- Bloom, Barry M. (October 19, 2010). "Cain pitches game of career to subdue Phillies".
- Haft, Chris (October 24, 2010). "SF wins on Juan swing; Philly KO'd, looking".
- Langosch, Jenifer (October 29, 2010). "Cain solidifies place among postseason elite".
- Haft, Chris (June 8, 2011). "Crawford shines as Cain ably leads Giants".
- Berry, Adam (June 25, 2011). "Cain's work rewarded by balk in Giants' duel".
- Haft, Chris (June 30, 2011). "Punchless Giants can't close out Cubs".
- Brock, Corey (July 13, 2011). "Panda, Wilson play big roles in All-Star win".
- "Matt Cain 2011 Pitching Gamelogs".
- Haft, Chris (July 27, 2011). "Cain repeats NLCS dominance of Phillies".
- Etkin, Jack (September 18, 2011). "Giants slug six homers in eighth straight win".
- "2011 National League Pitching Leaders".
- "Baseball Awards Voting for 2011".
- "Matt Cain, Giants agree to deal".
- "April 13, 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants".
- Haft, Chris (April 13, 2012). "Cain nearly perfect in beating Pirates".
- Kroner, Steve (April 18, 2012). "Aftermath of the Cliff Lee-Matt Cain classic".
- Haft, Chris (April 19, 2012). "Giants walk off winners in superb Cain-Lee duel".
- Cameron, Dave (April 19, 2012). "Cliff Lee and Matt Cain Pitch Into History". FanGraphs. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
- Haft, Chris (July 11, 2012). "Giants star in National League's victory".
- Haft, Chris (July 21, 2012). "Blanco's bunt produces Giants' victory in 10th".
- "2012 National League Pitching Leaders".
- "Baseball Awards Voting for 2012".
- Brock, Corey (October 7, 2012). "Cain's impressive postseason stretch halted".
- Haft, Chris (October 11, 2012). "Giants slam their way to historic NLCS berth".
- Haft, Chris (October 17, 2012). "Offensive futility sinks Cain, Giants in Game 3".
- Schulman, Henry (October 30, 2012). "Giants' Game 7 romp led by Cain, Scutaro".
- "October 28, 2012 World Series Game 4, Giants at Tigers".
- "Matt Cain throws perfect game, strikes out 14 as Giants drub Astros".
- Haft, Chris and Jay Lee (June 26, 2012). "Cain's perfecto lauded by San Francisco".
- Haft, Chris (April 1, 2013). "Giants stymied by Dodgers ace in opener".
- Ringolsby, Tracy (April 10, 2013). "Cain ready to display mastery of short-term memory".
- Baer, Bill (August 23, 2013). "Matt Cain lands on disabled list for the first time in his career".
- Hood, Ryan (July 14, 2014). "Cain drops to fifth in Giants' post-break rotation". MLB.com.
- Schulman, Henry (August 7, 2014). "Matt Cain makes startling revelation about his pitching arm". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Pavlovic, Alex (August 1, 2014). "Giants' pitcher Matt Cain needs surgery for bone chips". San Jose Mercury News.
- Haft, Chris (September 27, 2014). "Cain has surgery to remove bone spur in ankle". MLB.com.
- Mercury News (August 4, 2014). "Matt Cain done for rest of 2014 season, will have surgery". Mercury News. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
- Schulman, Henry (February 6, 2015). "Giants hoping Cain pitches as well as he feels". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Baggarly, Andrew (February 20, 2015). "Giants' Matt Cain looks strong at start of camp". San Jose Mercury News.
- "Cain placed on DL with forearm strain". ESPN.com. April 8, 2015.
- May, Meredith (July 26, 2009). "Sunday profile: Matt Cain of the Giants".
- "Familiar Faces Part 5". No H8 Campaign. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- List of World Series champions
- List of World Series starting pitchers
- List of Major League Baseball no-hitters
- List of Major League Baseball perfect games
- List of San Francisco Giants Opening Day starting pitchers
- List of San Francisco Giants no-hitters
- List of San Francisco Giants seasons
- List of San Francisco Giants team records
Cain met his wife Chelsea Williams during spring training while she was a student at Arizona State University majoring in sociology. At the time Chelsea was waitressing at a local steakhouse. The two were married in fall 2009 and had their first child, daughter Hartley, in December 2010. The family has homes in Arizona and Tennessee, as well as a home in Orinda. Cain enjoys hunting as a hobby. Cain supports Project Open Hand, and has expressed his support for same-sex marriage by appearing in the "No H8" photo campaign opposing California's Proposition 8.
Cain features a mix of mostly four pitches: a four-seam fastball (90–93 mph), a cutter (84–87), a curveball (76–79), and a changeup (83–86). Increasingly, he also throws a two-seam fastball at 89–91 mph. Cain leads with his four-seamer, throwing it over half the time in his career. His changeup is his secondary pitch to left-handed hitters, while he throws cutters as a secondary pitch to right-handed hitters. Cain throws curveballs in roughly equal proportions to righties and lefties.
After recovering from elbow surgery, Cain gained more range of motion in his pitching arm, saying, "I feel like I'm 18 again." Before he could make his first regular season start, Cain was placed on the disabled list with a flexor tendon strain in his right forearm.
Cain struggled for the remainder of the season before being sidelined due to elbow difficulties in July, pitching his last game on July 9, 2014. He ended the season with a 2–7 record and 4.18 ERA. Before undergoing surgery on his right elbow to remove bone chips on August 11, Cain revealed that he had pitched through bone chips for ten years, but that they had never been an issue until then. In late September, Cain underwent surgery on his right ankle to remove a bone spur. The Giants acquired Jake Peavy a few days before the trade deadline to fill in as a starting pitcher and went on to win the 2014 World Series. Cain won his third World Series ring in five years.
On July 4 at Petco Park, Cain struck out the San Diego Padres' Tommy Medica for his 1,500th career strikeout, becoming one of just eight Giants pitchers to reach that milestone. He also became the fourth Giants pitcher to reach the milestone since the franchise relocated to San Francisco in 1958.
Cain started the 2014 season 1–3 with a 3.66 ERA in his first eight starts, before being placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring on May 30, 2014. Bruce Bochy stated that after the All Star break, Cain would move from the second place in the Giants starting rotation to fifth. Bochy added that Cain falling in the order had more to do with everyone else's successes than any shortcomings of Cain.
Cain started on Opening Day for the Giants in 2013. He pitched six shutout innings before being removed due to a high pitch count; however, Kershaw threw a shutout, and the Dodgers beat the Giants 4–0. On April 7, Cain threw two no-hit innings before giving up nine runs in the third inning and getting removed from the game, becoming the first Giants to allow nine runs in an inning since Ernie Shore in 1912. The Cardinals beat the Giants 14-3. On August 23 against the Pirates, Cain was hit by Gaby Sánchez's line drive in the pitching arm, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career.
On June 13, 2012, in a 10-0 victory, Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in MLB history, against the Houston Astros, striking-out a career-high 14 batters (tying Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfect game). It was the first perfect game for the Giants franchise (first in San Francisco), the ninth in NL history, the fifth no-hitter thrown by MLB pitchers in 2012, and the second perfect game of the season after Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber threw one on April 21. Cain threw 125 pitches, the most by a pitcher in a perfect game, and received the most run support ever for a pitcher throwing a perfect game. Cain also singled against Rhiner Cruz and scored in the fifth inning. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, in recognition of the perfect game, presented Cain with the key to the city and made a proclamation that June 13 every year will be known as "Matt Cain Day". In addition, Cain set a franchise record for a single game score at 101 and is currently the first and only Giants pitcher to break the 100 barrier.
Cain reached the playoffs for the second time in his career as the Giants won the NL West after missing the playoffs in 2011. In Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds on October 6, he allowed three runs in five innings and took the loss as the Reds defeated the Giants 5–2. In Game 5 on October 11, he began the game with four scoreless innings; Cain would allow three runs over 5 2⁄3 innings as the Giants won 6–4 to advance to the next round of the playoffs. In Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cardinals on October 17, Cain allowed three runs in 6 2⁄3 innings and was charged with the loss as the Giants lost 3–1. On October 29, in Game 7, Cain threw 5 2⁄3 shutout innings and earned the win as the Giants won 9–0, marking the second time in the playoffs that Cain had won a series-clinching game. In Game 4 of the 2012 World Series against the Tigers on October 28, Cain allowed three runs in seven innings, earning a no-decision as the Giants won 4-3 in 10 innings to win the World Series for the second time in three years.
Cain had a 16-5 record in 2012. He tied with six other players for sixth in the NL in wins, finished fourth with a 2.79 ERA (behind Clayton Kershaw's 2.53, Dickey's 2.73, and Cueto's 2.78), and finished third with 219 1⁄3 innings pitched (behind Dickey's 233 2⁄3 and Kershaw's 227 2⁄3). He finished eighth with 193 strikeouts, joining teammates Bumgarner and Lincecum among the top 10 in the NL in that category. He was one of seven NL players to throw two or more shutouts. Cain finished sixth in NL Cy Young Award voting.
On April 13, pitching the Giants' home opener, Cain threw a complete game shut out, striking out 11. Facing 28 batters in 9 innings, one over the minimum, he allowed a single baserunner on a hit to James McDonald, the pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the third one-hitter of Cain's career. In his next start, on April 18, Cain threw another 9 shutout innings using only 91 pitches, dueling Cliff Lee of the Phillies who threw 102 pitches over 10 scoreless innings. The first 9 innings took only 1 hour and 49 minutes. The Giants went on to win in the 11th inning. Following a dominant first half, Cain was selected to the All-Star Game and was chosen by manager Tony La Russa to be the NL's starting pitcher. On July 10 at Kauffman Stadium, Cain allowed a leadoff single to Derek Jeter before retiring the six remaining hitters he faced; he was the winning pitcher in an 8–0 decision. On July 21, Cain hit his sixth career home run, off of Phillies' pitcher Cole Hamels in the third inning of a 10-inning, 6–5 Giants' victory. Later in that inning Hamels hit his first career home run off of Cain, making this the first time since 2002 when two pitchers have homered off of each other in the same game (Kevin Millwood and Denny Stark were the last to do it).
On April 2, 2012, Cain agreed to a five-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $112.5 million through 2017 with an option for 2018, at the time surpassing Kevin Brown for the largest deal for a right-handed pitcher. Cain earned a $5 million signing bonus, and will earn $20 million each season from 2013–17. His $21 million option for 2018 will vest automatically if he is not on the disabled list to an elbow or shoulder injury in 2017 and if he reaches 400 innings in 2016 and 2017 combined. If the option fails to vest, the Giants can either pick up the $21 million option or pay a $7.5 million buyout. Cain was scheduled to become a free agent after the 2012 season.
Cain threw a complete game against the Nationals on June 8, 2011, striking out 11, allowing one run, and hitting an RBI double against Yunesky Maya in a 3-1 Giants' victory. On June 25, he threw seven shutout innings (retiring 14 hitters in a row at one point) and earned the win in a 1–0 victory over the Cleveland Indians. On June 30 at Wrigley Field, Cain struck out the Chicago Cubs' Koyie Hill for his 1,000th career strikeout, becoming the fifth San Francisco Giants pitcher to reach the milestone. Also, he again threw seven shutout innings but received a no-decision this time in the Giants' 13-inning, 5–2 loss to the Cubs. He was an All-Star for the second time in his career in 2011; however, he did not appear in the All-Star Game because he started the final regular season game prior to the All-Star contest. He had a 2.64 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break but earned just four wins in that stretch. On July 27, Cain allowed an unearned run in seven innings, earning the win in a 2–1 victory over the Phillies. Cain had one strikeout and one walk in the game, ending his Giants' record (since 1900) of 39 consecutive starts with more strikeouts than walks. On September 18, Cain allowed five runs (three earned) in five innings and hit his fifth career home run against Esmil Rogers, earning the win as the Giants defeated Colorado 12–5. In 33 starts, Cain had a 12–11 record, 179 strikeouts, and 63 walks. His 2.88 ERA was eighth in the league, and his 221 2⁄3 innings pitched were seventh in the league. He finished eighth in Cy Young Award voting.
Cain reached the playoffs for the first time in his career as the Giants won the NL West to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2003. In Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves on October 8, Cain allowed one unearned run in 6 2⁄3 innings but received a no-decision as the Giants lost 5–4 in 11 innings. In Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on October 19, he threw seven shutout innings and earned the win in a 3–0 victory over the Phillies. The Giants defeated the Phillies in six games. On October 28, Cain capped an impressive post-season performance as he pitched 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers (a 9–0 Giants' victory) to become the fifth pitcher to pitch at least 20 innings in the postseason without allowing an earned run. His total post-season stats of a 2–0 record, with a 0.00 ERA through 211⁄3 innings pitched helped the Giants win their first championship in San Francisco.
For the season Cain was 13–11 with a 3.14 ERA, 177 strikeouts, and 61 walks. He finished sixth in the league with a 1.08 WHIP and 223 1⁄3 innings pitched. He tied for third with four complete games (tied with Ubaldo Jiménez and Johan Santana behind Roy Halladay's nine and Wainwright's five), including two shutouts (which made him one of seven players in the NL to throw two or more shutouts). He tied for 12th in NL Cy Young Award voting with Bronson Arroyo.
In 2010, Cain was part of a rotation that included 2008 and 2009 NL Cy Young Award winner Lincecum, 2002 American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito, Jonathan Sánchez, and Wellemeyer (who was replaced midseason by Madison Bumgarner). On May 22, Cain threw a complete game and allowed just one run but was charged with the loss as Oakland defeated the Giants 1–0. In his next start, on May 28, Cain shut out the Diamondbacks, allowing one hit (a double by Mark Reynolds) as the Giants won 5–0. In the month of May, Cain pitched into the sixth inning or later in all six of his starts while giving up nine earned runs on 23 hits with 35 strikeouts and 18 walks in 44 2⁄3 innings pitched with an overall record of 3–3 and a 1.81 earned run average. On August 1, for the first time in his career, Cain defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by throwing 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings in a 2–0 victory. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on September 26 against Colorado before finally allowing a one-out single to Jay Payton; Cain wound up allowing two runs while throwing a complete game in a 4–2 victory over the Rockies.
Cain finished the 2009 season with a 14–8 record in 33 starts. He had a 2.89 ERA (seventh in the NL), 171 strikeouts, 73 walks, and 217 2⁄3 innings pitched (seventh). He was tied for first in complete games thrown (four) with teammate Tim Lincecum. He finished ninth in the league with a .636 winning percentage. He finished the season with a career-high in wins and winning percentage.
Cain was the Giants' number three starter in 2009. He threw six shutout innings and had an RBI single against Mike Pelfrey on May 17 in a 2–0 victory over the Mets. In his next start on May 23, he threw a complete game, allowing just one run as San Francisco defeated the Seattle Mariners 5–1. On June 4, in the second game of a doubleheader, he threw a five-inning complete game, allowing one run in a 4–1 victory over the Nationals. He allowed one run in a complete game against Oakland on June 14, striking out nine as the Giants won 7–1. From May 7 through June 14, Cain won seven straight decisions. On July 5, Cain was announced as an All-Star for the first time in his young career. On Cain's final start before the All-Star Game, he was hit by a line drive right below his elbow and was forced to miss pitching for the NL All-Star Team, although he did still attend and was announced as an All-Star. Duke replaced Cain on the NL All-Star team. Cain threw a complete game on August 3 against Houston; however, he suffered the loss for the first time in his career when throwing a complete game, allowing four runs in a 4–3 defeat. On September 25, Cain was awarded the Willie Mac Award.
On April 12, 2008, Cain took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals before allowing a leadoff double to Albert Pujols; he allowed two runs in 6 2⁄3 innings and hit a home run against Todd Wellemeyer but received a no-decision as the Giants lost 8–7 in 10 innings. He allowed two runs in eight innings and hit a home run against Brandon Backe on May 13, earning the win as the Giants defeated the Houston Astros 4–2. He struck out a season-high 11 batters on June 15 while giving up three runs in seven innings, but he took the loss as the Athletics beat the Giants 4–0. He threw eight shutout innings on July 1, striking out 10 and earning the win in a 2–1 victory over the Cubs. On July 24, despite battling the flu, Cain threw a shutout, helping the Giants beat the Nationals 1–0. Cain went 8–14 with a 3.76 ERA. He had 186 strikeouts (tied with Ricky Nolasco for eighth in the league) and 217 2⁄3 innings (fifth in the league). His 14 losses were tied for fourth in the league with Johnny Cueto, Backe, Braden Looper, and Zach Duke (behind teammate Barry Zito's and Aaron Harang's 17 and John Lannan's 15); he was one of eight NL pitchers to make 34 starts. Cain's season record was deceiving, as he received the lowest run support in the NL.
Cain finished the season with the 10th-lowest ERA in the NL at 3.65. He had a 7–16 record; his 16 losses were second in the league (Kip Wells had 17). The Giants went 9–23 in his starts; the bullpen lost leads in five of his starts and the team scored 2 runs or fewer in 21 of his starts. He had 163 strikeouts and 79 walks in 200 innings pitched; he led the league with 12 wild pitches.
Cain went 4–1 over his next five starts. This stretch was bolstered in part by a power surge at the plate by Cain himself. He hit his first and second career home runs in these starts, off Tim Redding of the Washington Nationals and Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano. In September, he had an 0–3 record.
Cain began 2007 as the Giants' number two starter. In April, he had a 1.54 ERA with 12 hits in 35 innings pitched. On April 22, he pitched a complete game allowing one run (in the ninth) and three hits in a 2–1 victory over Arizona. It was the third complete game of his young career. Cain's record through August 3 was 3–12. He had limited opponents to a batting average of .238 against him during that stretch. The Giants scored two or fewer runs in 20 of Cain's first 30 starts. Additionally, the bullpen blew four leads behind him.
Late in the season, Cain increased his chances for Rookie of the Year consideration with a run of remarkable pitching. From August 17 to September 14 Cain recorded a 5–0 record with an ERA of 0.21. During this streak, he allowed just one earned run in 42 innings—and did not allow an earned run in 30 2⁄3 innings. He led all National League (NL) rookie pitchers with 13 wins, 179 strikeouts, and 190 2⁄3 innings pitched in 2006. His 2006 record was 13–12, with a 4.15 ERA. Cain finished in a fifth-place tie with Andre Ethier in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
In 2006, Cain struggled with consistency, but showed signs of dominance in several starts, flirting with a no-hitter on more than one occasion. On April 24, Cain did not allow a base runner until the sixth inning in a win over the New York Mets. On May 21, Cain pitched his first complete game shutout, a one-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. On June 19, Cain pitched 7 2⁄3 innings of no-hit ball against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before finally surrendering a single to Chone Figgins.
Cain's 2005 performance was impressive enough that manager Felipe Alou named him to the team's 2006 starting rotation before spring training began. Cain began the season as the team's fourth starter. Entering the season, he was again ranked as the Giants' top prospect by Baseball America, which also named him the 10th-best prospect in baseball.
Cain was called up to the Giants on August 26, 2005, to join their rotation. He made his major league debut on August 29, at the age of 20 against the Colorado Rockies; he gave up only three hits and two runs in five innings but still ended up losing the game. He earned his first major league win on September 4 allowing one run in seven innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He notched his first complete game, a two-hitter, against the Chicago Cubs on September 9. Cain finished his first season with seven starts over 46 1⁄3 innings in which he posted a 2–1 record, 30 strikeouts, a 2.33 ERA, a 0.928 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP), and a minuscule .151 opponent batting average.
San Francisco Giants (2005-present)
Baseball America ranked Cain as the 13th-best prospect in baseball in 2005, as well as the Giants' top prospect. Cain attended spring training in 2005, but he began the season with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (PCL). In 26 starts, Cain had a 10–5 record and 145 2⁄3 innings pitched. He finished fifth (tied with R.A. Dickey and Adam Wainwright) in the PCL in wins and fourth with a 4.39 ERA (behind Kevin Jarvis's 3.38, Chris Oxspring's 4.03, and Édgar González's 4.37). He led the league with 176 strikeouts.