The San Francisco Giants' homestand didn't end well, but they still hit the road with the NL West lead. Facing two of the worst teams in the major leagues during their trip could help the Giants keep that spot.
After winning five straight - and answering plenty of questions about how Los Angeles' recent acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and others will impact the West race - the Giants (71-57) dropped two to Atlanta over the weekend to finish a four-game homestand.
"Maybe at times we press here," Sunday starter Tim Lincecum told the Giants' official website following the 7-1 defeat. "... When you go on the road, you relax a little bit."
With the Dodgers in close pursuit, the Giants will try to win for the 15th time in 20 road games as they open a six-game stretch against the major- league worst Astros (40-88) and Chicago. San Francisco closes the season with 28 straight against West opponents, including six more with the Dodgers.
"More than likely (the division race will) come down to that last week," Cain told the Giants' official website.
Cain's focus now is helping San Francisco match a season high with a fourth consecutive road win.The Giants should have a good chance to do so as the right-hander has a 1.61 ERA during his three-start run.
Cain (13-5, 2.83 ERA) threw seven innings of one-run ball in an 8-4 victory at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, but he hasn't had that kind of stuff at Minute Maid Park, going 0-2 with a 7.27 ERA in three starts.
Cain, though, is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in two outings against the Astros in 2012, including a perfect game June 13 in which he struck out a career-high 14 in a 10-0 victory.
He'll face a Houston team that's scored 34 runs during a 2-11 stretch.
The Astros, who totaled two runs in back-to-back losses to New York over the weekend, open their six-game homestand with Bud Norris (5-11, 5.19) on the hill. The right-hander is 0-10 with a 6.78 ERA in 14 starts since his last victory May 21.
Norris has lost twice to San Francisco during that stretch, including a 3-2 defeat in the teams' last meeting July 15. Cain went 6 1-3 strong innings in that contest to help the Giants improve to 5-1 in the season series.
Buster Posey might not catch Cain on Tuesday as he's been dealing with a tight hamstring, but there's a good chance he'll be in the lineup. Among the NL leaders with a .328 average, Posey is 3 for 4 against Norris and 8 for 18 with a homer and four RBIs versus the Astros this season.
Right fielder Hunter Pence is 4 for 9 with two homers versus Houston in 2012, with all of those at-bats coming while with Philadelphia. Pence, acquired from the Phillies on July 31, will play his second series at Minute Maid Park since Houston dealt him to Philadelphia July 29, 2011.
The Giants last dropped three in a row during a season-worst five-game slide July 25-30.