As a 20-year-old rookie, Matt Cain was put in the care of a 35-year-old veteran catcher, Mike Matheny.
With Matheny catching six of the right-hander’s seven starts for the 2005 Giants, Cain enjoyed a successful beginning to his major-league career.
Now, as manager of the Cardinals, Matheny represents the opposition for Cain, who starts for the Giants against St. Louis in Game 3 of the 2012 National League Championship Series on Oct. 17.
Another prominent figure in Cain’s early big-league career, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, will face the Giants pitcher in the NL championship series. If not for Holliday, Cain likely would have avoided a loss in his Giants debut.
Promoted to the Giants after posting a 10-5 record for Class AAA Fresno, Cain made his big-league debut on Aug. 29, 2005, against the Rockies at San Francisco.
With Matheny behind the plate, Cain, the youngest pitcher to start a game for the Giants since 20-year-old Mark Grant in 1984, limited the Rockies to two runs in five innings, but took the loss in a 2-1 Colorado victory. Holliday, the Rockies’ cleanup batter, got two of the three Colorado hits against Cain _ a solo home run and a single. Boxscore
After the game, reporters approached Matheny for his assessment of the rookie.
“He has electric stuff, the kind of stuff you don’t see very often as far as velocity and late life,” Matheny said to the San Jose Mercury News. “His fluid motion makes him very deceptive.”
Matheny told the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s just a shame we have such trouble scoring runs for these guys, especially after a first start like that, and he has to walk away with a loss. It’s a shame we couldn’t pull out a win for him.”
Working well with Matheny, Cain quickly achieved two milestones. He earned his first big-league win in his second start and recorded his first big-league complete game in his third start.
Cain held the Diamondbacks to a run on three hits through seven innings and got the win in the Giants’ 3-2 victory at Phoenix on Sept. 4. Boxscore
Five days later, Cain went the distance in earning the win in the Giants’ 2-1 victory over the Cubs at San Francisco. He gave up two hits and struck out eight. Boxscore
Cain takes an 85-78 regular-season career record (including a perfect game against the Astros on June 13 this year) into his start against the Cardinals. Holliday has hit three home runs against him.