Matt Cain emerged from the Chukchansi Park dugout to applause.
Just like the old days when the San Francisco Giants pitcher was working his way through the minors and pitching for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
But there wasn’t much else Cain could take solace in Saturday night in his Fresno return.
Making a rehab start with the Sacramento River Cats, Cain gave up six runs (four earned) on 10 hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out four.
Making a rehab start against the Fresno Grizzlies, San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain gave up six runs (four earned) off 10 hits and two walks while lasting five innings.
Nonetheless, the three-time All Star believes he’s ready to return to the majors.
“My body felt good, everything came out of it good,” said Cain, on the disabled list since Aug. 18. “I thought I was locating well. Even some of the pitches they got hits on were located well.
“Now on to figuring out what they want to do next.”
Though they rooted for Cain, many among a near-sellout crowd of 11,337 at Chukchansi Park cheered his struggles, too, as the Grizzlies benefited in a 6-2 victory.
Hardcore Giants fans, however, certainly had to wonder what Cain has left – for this season and his career.
Can Cain return to his old form as a workhorse?
Or is San Francisco stuck with an old, injury-prone Cain?
The 31-year-old has logged 1,955 2/3 innings in the majors in a 12-year career. And he’s been injured for much of the past three seasons, limited to no more than 90 1/3 innings in any of those campaigns.
He’s landed on the disabled list three times this season, in which he is 4-8 with a career-worst 5.81 ERA in 83 2/3 innings and 17 starts.
It’s something you don’t want to go through. I got to learn how to cope mentally and physically with it.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain on his three straight injury-riddled seasons
“It’s definitely been a different road,” Cain said. “Not having to deal with injuries early on I my career, then I’ve had a handful of them pop up, it’s definitely been an adventure.
“It’s something you don’t want to go through. I got to learn how to cope mentally and physically with it.”
Can Cain bounce back and help San Francisco down the stretch?
The Giants are the top wild card team in the National League but two back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. West.
Cain played for the Grizzlies in 2005. Fresno operated as the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate from 1997-2014.
The big righty from Tennessee owns the Grizzlies’ franchise record with 176 strikeouts in a season.
“It’s a special place for me,” Cain said of Fresno. “I had a lot of fond memories here in ’05, playing with the guys in Fresno. And this will always be a good, special spot for me.”
Cain helped the Giants win World Series titles in 2010 and 2012 before he was sidelined in 2014 when they won the title again.
In his return Saturday, Cain retired the side in order in the first and followed with a scoreless second.
Each time, he received loud applause.
5 Fresno Grizzlies runs amassed against Giants pitcher Matt Cain during the third inning alone
But in the third, fatigue started to show.
His fastball velocity started about 90-92 mph but dipped to the mid- to high 80s. Cain also missed location on some offspeed pitches.
And the Grizzlies feasted, with four singles and two doubles while scoring five runs in the third.
The inning was extended by Sacramento third baseman Ali Castillo’s two-out error and the Grizzlies capitalized with three runs.
“A lot of times, it’s been the big innings,” Cain said of his struggles in 2016. “We’ve been getting into situations; I haven’t been getting out of them.
“I’ve had a problem with giving up a lot of long balls and a lot of hard hit balls to the gaps. Today, guys kind of found some holes – that’s going to happen. There’s really only a couple of pitches I didn’t really like the way they came off my hand.”
Cain answered with a scoreless fourth, but served up a solo home run to No. 5 hitter Colin Moran to start the bottom of the fifth.
For the night, Cain threw 105 pitches, 68 for strikes.
Cain also made a rehab start against the Grizzlies last year, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
“You don’t want to have to come back down here for rehabs,” Cain said. “But being able to come back down the past two years to Fresno brings back good memories of when I played here.
“It’s always a touching feeling.”
SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS AT FRESNO GRIZZLIES
- First pitch: 5:05 p.m. at Chukchansi Park
- Records: Grizzlies (68-65) ; River Cats (64-70)
- Radio: KYNO (AM 1430)
- Of note: The Grizzlies will play their final game at Chukchansi Park this season. The Grizzlies are 37-33 (going into Saturday) at home this season.