The Cincinnati Reds’ NL-best offense has been the victim of three complete-game shutouts this season, the most recent two courtesy of former Cy Young Award winners.
The San Francisco Giants’ suddenly struggling pitching staff could use another boost Monday night from Cain, who will try to spoil the Reds’ quest for a ninth win in 10 games in the opener of his team’s nine-game homestand.
Cincinnati (72-52) leads the NL in average (.272) and runs (4.96), the biggest reason it has a 3 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central with six weeks to go.
The Reds haven’t been immune to the occasional off day, however. Seattle’s Cliff Lee(notes) - now with Texas - and New York’s Johan Santana(notes) both shut them out, but Cain (9-10, 3.11 ERA) was the first - and the only one to do it in Cincinnati.
Cain held the Reds to seven hits and struck out five in a 3-0 win June 8.
“When he’s on, he’s as tough as they get,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said.
Cain, though, is 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in his last three starts after allowing five runs - two earned - over six innings in an 8-2 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday.
That outing was just one example of a continued stretch of inconsistency for San Francisco’s starters. They’re 2-9 with a 5.60 ERA since Aug. 7 as the Giants (69-56) have lost nine of 15.
Barry Zito(notes) didn’t make it through the fourth innings in Sunday’s 9-0 loss in St. Louis, which dropped San Francisco six games behind NL West-leading San Diego and into a tie for second with the Cardinals in the wild-card race.
“You can’t let a game or two get you down,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re headed home. We hope to play better.”
No NL club has a better record than the Reds’ 23-11 since the All-Star break. Brandon Phillips(notes) had four hits while Joey Votto(notes) homered and drove in three in a 5-2 win Sunday at Los Angeles, Cincinnati’s eighth in nine games.
Votto is hitting .387 with six homers and 22 RBIs in his last 22 games.
“The guy’s hit everywhere he’s gone, so you don’t stop hitting,” Baker said. “The thing is, he thinks and knows he can hit, and that’s the battle right there. He doesn’t like making outs.”
He’s made more than a few against the Giants, though. Votto is 3 for 31 (.097) in his last 10 games versus San Francisco, and 4 for 15 (.267) in his career against Cain.
The right-hander will be anxious to put his latest start behind him. Volquez gave up five runs over 4 2-3 innings Wednesday at Arizona, though Cincinnati rallied from a four-run deficit to win 11-7.
Ross was hitting .282 with 46 RBIs prior to the All-Star break, but is hitting .221 with 12 RBIs since.
He won’t be anxious to see Volquez, who has held him hitless in eight career at-bats, but would love to get a shot at closer Francisco Cordero(notes). Ross is 4 for 7 with two homers against Cordero, who has converted 10 straight saves.