Padres-Giants Preview

The San Francisco Giants’ NL-worst offense has suddenly found
its groove, which may be good news for starter Matt Cain.

The right-hander takes the mound as San Francisco seeks to win
three straight for the first time in nearly two months Tuesday
night against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park.

The Giants (77-70), last in the league with a .238 team batting
average, have totaled 16 runs and 20 hits in their past two games
after scoring two runs while losing their previous three
contests.

Pablo Sandoval, batting .400 during a seven-game hitting streak,
had a three-run homer in a four-run seventh inning during Monday’s
8-3 win over San Diego.

“It’s good to see the guys loosen up and swing the bats like
we’re capable of,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re trying to
finish up strong. We’re hanging by a thread, but it’s not
over.”

The reigning World Series champion Giants trail Arizona by 8 1/2
games with 15 remaining and need plenty of help to get a chance to
defend their title in the postseason.

“We’re not going to give in,” said Cody Ross, who homered and
had three hits Monday. “We’re the defending champs and we’ve got
something to prove. We’re going to play through and see what
happens.”

The Giants haven’t won three consecutive games since July 17-19,
losing their last six when coming off back-to-back victories.

Cain (11-10, 2.84 ERA) hopes to help halt that trend, though the
offense hasn’t provided much support for him throughout the
season.

Cain has been solid of late, going 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA over his
last five starts, but he lost his most recent outing 3-1 to San
Diego on Wednesday after allowing two runs in seven innings.

It marked the 19th time this year that Cain has received two
runs or fewer of support, and he’s one of three Giants starters –
Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum the others – who rank among the
bottom five in the NL in run support average.

Cain has experienced a similar trend when facing the Padres this
season, receiving nine runs in 27 innings over four starts. Cain is
0-2 with a 3.67 ERA in those outings, dropping him to 1-5 with a
4.70 ERA over his last eight starts against San Diego.

The Padres (63-85) have lost nine of 12 to San Francisco, though
Cain has started two of the Giants’ defeats.

Cory Luebke (5-9, 3.28) started the other San Diego victory, and
he’ll look to break out of a slump Tuesday. Luebke has lost his
last three starts, posting a 5.87 ERA during that stretch after
giving up two runs in 5 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 4-1 defeat at
Arizona.

The left-hander, though, has pitched well in both of his starts
against the Giants. He struck out eight while allowing two runs in
six innings of a 2-1 loss July 7, then gave up two runs in seven
innings to beat San Francisco 11-3 on July 16.

Like Cain, Luebke hasn’t received much help from his offense
lately. The Padres have scored three runs in his 15 1-3 innings
during his three-start skid.

Nick Hundley and Chris Denorfia each went 3 for 4 on Monday.
Hundley is 9 for 16 over his last four games, while Denorfia is
hitting .600 in six contests since returning from the disabled
list.

Hundley, however, is 1 for 12 lifetime against Cain.