Updated 5:12 pm, Saturday, September 30, 2017
Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle
In his first moment as a former major-league pitcher, Matt Cain doffed his cap as the crowd at AT&T Park roared Saturday. He raised it to the sky, put it over his heart, raised it again with his other fist thrust into the air, then tossed his cap into the stands.
So ended the 13-year major-league career of the Horse, who had just completed five shutout innings against the San Diego Padres.
Cain allowed two singles and threw 73 pitches before he walked off the AT&T mound for the final time with a 1-0 lead in a 3-2 Padres victory. Austin Hedges doubled home the tying and go-ahead runs against Sam Dyson on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth.
Cain already was in line for a no-decision when Dyson blew his second consecutive save attempt.
Manager Bruce Bochy, booed in the fifth inning when the crowd thought he was going to remove Cain after a leadoff walk to Cory Spangenberg, met Cain at the warning track in front of the dugout steps after the third out and hugged him, as did catcher Buster Posey.
Cain stood on the track and acknowledged the crowd, walked into the dugout, and before taking a curtain call hugged his teammates. Madison Bumgarner bear-hugged him in what had to be an emotional moment for both pitchers.
Cain ends his career with a 104-118 record and 3.68 ERA, but all Giants watchers know the record resulted from too many games in which he was “Cained” and got little or no run support — like Saturday. Cain lost his chance at one more victory when Wil Myers tied it 1-1 with a sixth-inning homer off rookie Reyes Moronta.
Cain threw more innings than every San Francisco Giants pitcher besides Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Only Marichal and Tim Lincecum struck out more hitters. Cain needed 14 Saturday to catch Lincecum at 1,704. He got four.
Also, of course, Cain ends with three World Series championship rings. He also was one of 23 pitchers in major-league history to throw a perfect game. Ted Barrett, the home plate umpire that night in 2012, called balls and strikes Saturday.
On the final day of September, Cain took the mound for the first time since the final day of August and pitched like a winner.
In a moment of grand theater, with the Giants leading 1-0, the fans thought Cain would end his career with a walk and were not happy. As the fans booed Bochy, he and Cain engaged in a conversation on the mound that also included Posey and all four infielders, Bochy returned to the dugout without Cain.
Cain then retired Hunter Renfroe on a long fly to center and struck out Austin Hedges on a half-swing. When Cain got ahead of pitcher Jhoulys Chacin 0-2, the crowd stood. When Cain got Chacin to ground out, Cain’s career ended with a scoreless inning.
Cain got on ovation at 12:40 p.m. when he took the field to warm up and another when he returned to the dugout. The third came when Renel Brooks-Moon read the lineups and said, “Batting ninth, forever Giant Matt Cain.”
The next one came as he took the mound, appropriately, to Thomas Rhett’s “Like It’s the Last Time.”
After Myers hit a monstrous foul down the left-field line, Cain struck him out to finish a perfect first inning.
The three Giants ahead of Cain in the batting order apparently know good theater. They all reached in the second inning to bring Cain to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Chacin understood the moment and stepped behind the mound for a spell to let Cain soak in yet another standing ovation.
Chacin struck out Cain on three pitches, but Hunter Pence made sure Cain would have a lead for the third inning when he beat the relay on a potential double-play grounder to third. Pence lunged for the bag and fell face-first beyond the bag as Pablo Sandoval scored.
The first hit off Cain was Renfroe’s leadoff single in the third. Renfroe was on second base when Cain got the third out on a groundball by Manuel Margot, who homered off him twice in Cain’s first start this year.
On the morning of his 331st and final major-league start, Cain sat by his locker, alone. Someone had spliced a montage featuring dozens of his strikeouts over the years. It was playing on every TV screen in the clubhouse but one, which Cain was watching intently.
He was watching the Red Sox-Astros game.
Nobody would have known by looking at Cain that he was hours from ending a 16-year journey with the Giants, starting with his selection in the 2002 draft. The emotional ride awaiting him on the field at AT&T Park was not evident.
In other words, Cain treated this like a normal start, which is how he wanted it, with no pregame hoopla. That will come Sunday.
“I talked to him (Friday),” Bochy said. “That’s how he’s going about it, another start and another chance to go out and give the team a chance to win. Today he’s looking at it as, I’ve got a job to do.”
But Bochy understood this would not be a normal day.
“It’s going to be an emotional day,” Bochy said before the game. “It will be a good day with Matt out there, with the ovations and accolades he deserves.”
Every longtime Cain teammate who is healthy was in the lineup, a “no-brainer,” Bochy said, adding, “The boys all wanted to be out there for Matty’s last start.”