Giants-Astros Preview

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.

Matt Cain will try to win a fourth consecutive start when the

Giants and Houston Astros meet in Texas for the first time this

season Tuesday night.

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.