With Cain, Giants’ future is now 

The Bay Area’ s first star of tomorrow has arrived.

He’s here, and if you don’t think he’s the real deal, you’re a step slow in this ever-changing sports landscape.

Matt Cain, all of 21 years old, with all of 35 starts in the majors, has offiically stamped himself the center of the Giants’ universe.

And, in the process, Cain has pushed aside Barry Bonds as the best show in a Giants uniform

Watching Cain mow down big-league hitters the last four weeks has been the single most satisfying thing about the Giants’ push toward the postseason. And watching him dominate has been similar to watching Bonds in his heyday because, as a fan, you feel the opponent has no chance.

With the Giant’s wild-card chances hanging in the balance, Cain strung together eight shutout innings Thursday, stretching his streak of scoreless innings to 17¹/³, giving him 30²/³ innings without allowing an earned run. Over the six starts he’s made since Aug. 17, Cain is 5-0 with an 0.21 ERA.

Cain has credited a calmer approach for his recent stretch of dominance, which has improved his record to 13-9, and dropped his ERA to an impressive 3.75, throwing Cain right into the middle of the NL Rookie of the Year race.

Not only that, Cain has picked up the Giants and carried them on his shoulders the last month. The Giants’ rebirth as a postseason possibility can be broken down as follows. Since they were 57-63 on Aug. 17, the Giants are 6-0 when Cain pitches, and 11-9 when anybody else took the mound.

All this while Giants fans are lamenting a future without Barry Bonds. Well, folks, your search for the Giants’ next torchbearer starts and ends with Cain.

And that puts Brian Sabean in an enviable position among his brethren of baseball general managers.

Right now, there are maybe six teams that know who their ace will be over the next three or four years, and three of them are kidding themselves. The other two dozen or so are scrambling without any pleasant answers out there on their horizon.

Cain’s emergence also puts the Giants in a position of strength when it comes to their biggest off-season question — can they re-sign Jason Schmidt?

Schmidt is a top-of-the-rotation starter who figures to command a huge contract this offseason. Cain enables the Giants to offer a contract they can live with, but they won’t be in a position where they have to overpay to keep Schmidt.

With Cain leading the way, along with Noah Lowry, Matt Morris, Jonathan Sanchez, Brad Hennessey and Jamey Wright, the Giants will be able to carve together a nice starting rotation if Schmidt signs elsewhere.

Thanks to Cain, Sabean’s job will be so much easier once this season is in the books. Having a bonafide star to build around will do that.

WHILE I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION: Now that Don Nelson is in charge, the Warriors are no longer hoping to make the playoffs. They are counting on it.

» Let me get this straight: The 49ers were praised for their gutty effort against Arizona Sunday, but lost. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were slammed for not crushing the Niners.

Did I miss something? These are the Cardinals. Bill Bidwill’s Cardinals. The laughingstock of the NFL.

Anytime they win a game, their fans should celebrate. New stadium or not.

Niners fans, meanwhile, should never take anything positive out of losing to the Cardinals. Teams should be forced to renounce their NFL affiliation after losing to the Cardinals, not kudos for hanging in there.

Tim Liotta hosts the weekend edition of "Sportsphone 680" on KNBR (680 AM).

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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