2016 strugglers start for D-backs, Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Two pitchers who lost their starting jobs last year but received a reprieve this season match up when the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants complete a three-game series Wednesday.

Right-handers Shelby Miller and Matt Cain, who combined to lose 20 games last season, will try to maintain their managers’ confidence when they duel in the rubber match of the series.

Starting pitching has been the name of the game in the first two contests, with left-handers Matt Moore of the Giants and Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks taking turn shutting down the opposition in wins.

Recent history indicates that trend is unlikely to continue Wednesday.

Miller (1-0) did win his season debut last week against the Cleveland Indians, but only after allowing three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 7-3 victory.

The right-hander was once a 15-game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he fell upon hard times in 2015 (6-17 record despite a 3.02 ERA for the Atlanta Braves) and last season (3-12 with a 6.15 ERA for Arizona).

He was so bad early last year (2-9 with a 7.14 ERA), he was sent to the minors.

Miller was only marginally better when recalled late in the year, winning just one of his final four decisions.

He had never won a home game for the Diamondbacks until beating the Indians.

“It’s nice,” he said. “I didn’t pitch good at home last year at all. We didn’t win, either, at home last year.”

Cain (0-0) was less likely than Miller to retain his starting spot this season because of the competition in spring training. The Giants were considering left-hander Ty Blach, a late-season sensation last September, for the fifth spot. And it appeared Cain did nothing to help his cause, sporting a 7.82 ERA in Cactus League action.

However, Giants manager Bruce Bochy, one of the most loyal skippers in the game, decided to give Cain one more shot nonetheless.

“I thought Matt handled everything well. He was healthy, he threw strikes and he got better as it went,” Bochy said on the eve of the season upon making the call on his fifth starter. “He deserves to be our fifth starter right now.”

The veteran’s first start wasn’t encouraging, He couldn’t get out of the fifth inning in San Diego, allowing four runs on six hits.

The form was similar to what produced 2-7, 2-4 and 4-8 records the past three seasons, with last year’s losing mark attached to a 5.64 ERA.

Cain, a Cy Young Award candidate on more than one occasion early in his Giants career, lost his rotation spot not once but twice last season, although Bochy labeled the first demotion a rest.

Neither team has done much scoring in the series so far, but both were on the verge of big things in Arizona’s 4-3 win on Tuesday night. The Giants had 10 hits and stranded 13 baserunners. The Diamondbacks countered with nine hits, but they stranded 10 baserunners. Ten walks were issued in the contest.