MIAMI (AP) — Matt Cain’s season debut Thursday came without the hype or souvenir masks accompanying the return of his counterpart, Jose Fernandez.
But for the San Francisco Giants, Cain’s comeback provided a welcome boost, even in defeat.
The three-time All-Star allowed five runs in five innings and lost 5-4 to Fernandez and the Miami Marlins, who completed a three-game sweep.
Cain, sidelined last July by an elbow injury that required surgery, threw 89 pitches and was encouraged by his outing.
“It was probably one of the better days I’ve had feeling-wise, which is really a big positive,” he said. “It’s just now ironing it out and making good pitches.”
Fernandez, pitching for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2014, gave up three runs in six innings. He also homered against Cain leading off the fifth to start Miami’s comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
“I just didn’t make a good pitch,” Cain said. “I left it down the middle for a guy that swings the bat pretty well for a pitcher.”
Cain gave up a three-run homer later in the inning to Justin Bour, and the right-hander walked four. But manager Bruce Bochy liked what he saw.
“I think Matt should be encouraged,” Bochy said. “The first four innings, I thought he was pretty good. He’s only going to get better building the strength and stamina.”
Teammate Gregor Blanco agreed, saying Cain’s return bolsters a team in playoff contention despite being hard-hit by injuries this year.
“It’s unbelievable the energy he will bring to the starting rotation, relievers, the whole team, defense, offense,” Blanco said. “ It’s good to have him back.”
The Giants get another boost Friday when Jake Peavy, out since April 17 with a strained back, is scheduled to start at Washington. The return of two starters took a little sting out of the sweep, the first in a series of at least three games for Miami at home against the Giants since 1999.
The crowd of 32,598 roared with every strike from Fernandez. Thanks to a giveaway promotion, Marlins fans were armed with masks of their ace’s face.
The first two batters to face Fernandez scored, but he soon found the form that made him the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year.
“I would have loved to have pitched a little better,” he said. “But it’s exciting I got the first one out of the way and we got a win.”
Blanco homered against Fernandez (1-0), and Buster Posey also homered for the Giants.
Fernandez topped out at 99 mph, and his final pitch was clocked at 97. His command was excellent, too — six strikeouts, no walks and 68 of 89 pitches for strikes.
“He had his normal stuff, it looked like,” Bochy said. “You don’t expect to score a lot of runs off him. He looks healthy.”
Giants: As expected, RHP Tim Lincecum was placed on the disabled list retroactive to Sunday, allowing for Cain to be activated. Lincecum bruised his right forearm when hit by a line drive Saturday.
Giants: Posey was back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game when a foul tip jarred his facemask. Posey started at 1B but was available as a backup C. ... OF Angel Pagan, who has been bothered by a swollen knee, was held out of the starting lineup on his 34th birthday. He pinch-hit in the eighth and struck out.
Marlins: Slugger Giancarlo Stanton was in uniform and in the dugout, his broken left hand in a cast.
Giants closer Santiago Casilla, who blew a save Wednesday, will be given two or three days off, Bochy said before the game. “It just didn’t look like the same Casilla out there,” Bochy said. “He’s just a little tired, I think.”