By Will Graves
Matt Cain allowed two hits over 6 2-3 innings and the San Francisco Giants pounded the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-0 on Thursday night.
A year to the day after throwing a perfect game against Houston, Cain (5-3) was nearly flawless again. He struck out three and walked two, giving up a single to Garrett Jones in the fifth and a double to Andrew McCutchen in the seventh.
Hunter Pence hit his 11th homer of the season, while Buster Posey, Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias had three hits apiece for San Francisco, which avoided a sweep by spoiling Charlie Morton’s return from Tommy John surgery.
Morton (0-1) surrendered four runs on seven hits, striking out five and walking one. The right-hander also hit three batters while making his first major league start in more than a year.
The Giants didn’t knock Morton around so much as chip away. San Francisco touched Morton for a run in each of the first two innings then added two more in the fifth before breaking things open with five runs in the sixth against reliever Mike Zagurski.
The romp was a welcome change for the defending World Series champions, who have struggled on the road. San Francisco came in just 4-12 in its last 16 games away from AT&T Park but had little trouble with Cain returning to form.
The three-time All-Star has run hot and cold this season, getting off to a horrific start in April before going 4-0 in May. The Giants lost both of his starts this month, scoring all of one run in the process.
There were no such problems against Morton.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle initially hinted the 29-year-old Morton might not have much time to prove himself for the surprising Pirates. A stream of injuries to the starting staff may change things. Staff ace A.J. Burnett joined Wandy Rodriguez, Jeanmar Gomez and James McDonald on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday afternoon with a strained right calf.
Morton, who became a father for the first time earlier this year, anticipated nerves — and it showed. He walked Blanco leading off then drilled Brandon Crawford before Posey followed with a single to left. Morton, his fastball topping out at 96 mph, settled down to end the inning with consecutive strikeouts, but by then Cain already had all the breathing room he would need.
Cain tossed a one-hitter against the Pirates last season, the lone mistake being a fastball in the sixth inning that McDonald turned into a single. Two months later he tossed the 22nd perfect game in baseball history against the overmatched Astros.
He didn’t overwhelm Pittsburgh this time, instead letting his defense do most of the work. Cain wasted little time between pitches and the Pirates could never seem to get comfortable.
San Francisco certainly looked at ease, pushing the lead to 4-0 during a weird fifth inning. Zagurski hit Crawford with one out and Posey smacked a ground-rule double to the gap in left-center. Crawford would have easily scored if the ball hadn’t hopped over the fence.
Things evened out when Pence hit a dribbler that turned into a rundown between third and home. Crawford smacked into Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez during the chase, with home plate umpire Tim McClellan awarding Crawford home plate after ruling Alvarez impeded Crawford’s path.
Andres Torres hit a sacrifice fly, but a potentially big inning came undone when a liner by Arias went right at Pence standing off second base. The San Francisco outfielder dove forward to avoid the ball only to have it deflect off his helmet.
Pence earned a bit of revenge the next inning when he smoked a 3-run homer off Zagurski and the rout was on.