Strasburg looks to win consecutive starts for the first time and help the Washington Nationals avoid matching a season-high losing streak Tuesday night against a San Francisco Giants team that has won four straight with Cain on the mound.
Despite a rough outing by Zach Duke in an 8-0 loss in the series opener Monday, Washington starters have one of the lowest ERAs in the majors in May at 2.99.
It’s been a much different story offensively for the Nationals (23-22), who are averaging 2.7 runs and hitting .201 while losing seven of 10.
They totaled just 13 runs for Strasburg (2-5, 2.83 ERA) during his career-worst streak of seven consecutive starts without a win that finally ended Thursday.
Washington came through with six runs and Strasburg allowed one run and three hits over a career-high eight-plus innings in a 6-2 win at San Diego. The All-Star right-hander had never thrown a pitch in the eighth inning of a big league start until Thursday.
According to Strasburg, he’d been looking forward to “just getting deep in the ballgame, getting used to that, getting into the routine of how you’re body’s going to feel the next day and learning how to recover and getting ready to doing it again.”
It was his first victory since the season opener despite a 2.83 ERA that ranks among the best in the NL. He’s yielded just one earned run and eight hits over 13 innings in his last two starts.
Strasburg has given up three runs and seven hits while striking out 15 over 12 innings in winning both his career starts against San Francisco (25-20).
Plagued by his own lack of run support, Cain (3-2, 5.43) failed to win through six starts for the first time in his nine-year career before going 3-0 with a 3.74 ERA over his last three.
The Giants, who had a season-high 17 hits Monday, have totaled 24 runs of support over Cain’s last four starts after managing only three in his first five.
The All-Star right-hander has been dominant at home against the Nationals, going 3-1 with a 1.66 ERA and two complete games in five career starts. He also allowed three runs over 6 2-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 6-5 loss at Washington on July 5.
Bryce Harper went 0 for 3 against Cain in that contest and may be able to play after going hitless Monday in his return from a two-game absence because of a bruised left knee.
“We’ll see how I feel after the game and go from there,” said Harper, who leads the Nationals with a .288 batting average and 11 home runs.
Although the Giants snapped a three-game skid Monday, their rotation took a hit when right-hander Ryan Vogelsong suffered a broken throwing hand during an at-bat in the fifth inning. He’s scheduled for surgery Tuesday and expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
“We’re not talking about Tommy John or anything here,” Vogelsong said. “Basically as fast as we can get it to heal so I can start throwing again.”
Marco Scutaro is batting .480 during an 18-game hitting streak, though he’s hitless in five lifetime at-bats against Strasburg.
Brandon Belt matched a career high with four hits Monday and is batting .412 with three homers since May 9.