SAN FRANCISCO — Aside from the championship ring on his finger, there was nothing positive that Matt Cain could take away from Sunday's historically bad start.
But Cain did take some solace in the fact he wasn't the only ace to be roughed up Sunday around Major League Baseball, even if his line in a 14-3 Giants loss to the St. Louis Cardinals was the most unsightly of the day.
On a day when both reigning Cy Young Award winners Toronto's R.A. Dickey and Tampa Bay's David Price were shelled, along with the likes of Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and Washington's Stephen Strasburg, Cain left with a line that's rarely seen. He was charged with nine earned runs, all of which came in the fourth inning.
John Cronin is the only other starting pitcher in franchise history to give up nine runs in an inning, and he did it 111 years ago, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau provided by the Giants.
"Baseball has a way of humbling guys," Cain said. "You can be going along great, and it'll set you back straight. The baseball gods kind of find a way to even it out."
Cain said he had no explanation for the collapse, which came after he needed just 30 pitches to get through three perfect innings. He didn't think he was tipping his pitches and didn't notice a drastic change in the Cardinals' approach.
"It just kind of fell apart," Cain said.
The outing put a damper on what was otherwise an emotional day at AT&T Park. Before the game, the Giants were given their championship rings during an elegant ceremony on the infield. The rings, made by Tiffany & Co., have a white gold face that includes the "SF" logo made out of 52 melee diamonds. On both sides of the ring, seven round diamonds represent the organization's seven championships.
Each ring includes an individual player's name, uniform number and a cable car design, and the rings also were engraved with a nod to the 2012 postseason victories.
General manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy picked up their rings first, followed by Giants legends and a steady stream of players. Bochy said several players had tears in their eyes as they held their hands out for the rings.
"These guys earned this," Bochy said. "They deserved it."
After sitting through parts of the banner ceremony Friday and Buster Posey's MVP ceremony Saturday, the Cardinals avoided Sunday's festivities. An hour after the final ring was handed out, last year's National League runners-up began pelting Cain.
Jon Jay started the barrage with a single, one of six in the fourth inning. Matt Adams' ground-rule double was the only big blow and scored two, but the Cardinals kept pecking away at the Giants' ace. Cain walked two and gave up seven hits in the inning, the final one a Matt Carpenter single that chased Cain after just 66 pitches.
Bochy thought Cain was getting the ball up in the zone too much, but all involved said there was little reason to be concerned. Cain had a strong spring and threw six shutout innings Monday in the season opener.
On Sunday, he lasted just 3 innings and gave up nine earned runs for the second time in his career. Cain walked off the mound with his ERA at 8.38, the highest it has been at any point of his nine-year career.
"We just couldn't stop the bleeding," Bochy said. "He's frustrated, but it just happens occasionally."
The Cardinals got seven strong innings from their ace, Adam Wainwright, and tacked on five late runs thanks to sloppy Giants defense and some bullpen struggles.