Aside from taking advantage of a few days with the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field this past week, the Chicago Cubs haven't had much luck offensively.
Their hitting woes against Matt Cain have been prevalent for years.
Cain looks to continue his dominance over the Cubs and win his fifth straight start overall when he takes the ball for the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.
Chicago (18-33) arrived in San Francisco after scoring 24 runs in a three-game home sweep over San Diego, with two of those games being played in favorable hitting conditions. The sudden offensive turnaround came immediately after the team averaged 2.8 runs while hitting .236 during a 12-game losing streak.
In Friday's opener with the Giants (28-24), the Cubs reverted to their sputtering ways and entered the ninth against Madison Bumgarner trailing 4-0. Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer - his eighth in 16 games - to pull Chicago within one, but Javier Lopez recorded the final two outs for his first save of the season.
San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla injured his right knee in the ninth, and the extent of the injury is unknown.
Regardless of who comes out of the bullpen, the Cubs' first order of business is to try to get something going against Cain (5-2, 2.79 ERA), which must feel like an impossible assignment.
Cain is 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA in seven starts in the series dating to Aug. 23, 2007, holding the Cubs without a run five times. He hasn't allowed a run in the last 15 innings against Chicago, and has limited Soriano to one hit - a homer - in eight career at-bats.
The right-hander hasn't been as sharp lately, recording a 3.51 ERA in his last four starts, but he has still won each of those outings. He hasn't won five consecutive starts since stringing together a career-best six in a row from May 17-June 14, 2009.
The last time he took the mound Sunday in Miami, Cain gave up two runs, five hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 win.
That victory began a stretch of four wins in five contests for the Giants, who have pulled within four games of the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, losers of five in a row.
Melky Cabrera, the hottest hitter in the NL, has been in the middle of the surge, batting .579 (11 for 19) with six runs scored in his last five games. He drove in a run and had two hits Friday after tying a San Francisco franchise record with 51 hits in May.
"That month is over,'' said Cabrera, who has raised his average to .376, tying him with the Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko for the major league lead. "I never think about what day it is or anything like that. I just try to do my best to help the team and I'm happy I'm doing that right now.''
Cabrera is 3 for 12 lifetime against scheduled starter Matt Garza (2-3, 4.22), who looks to put another disappointing outing behind him.
Garza, whose name is being mentioned in trade rumors, has been knocked around for 13 runs and five homers over eight innings in losing his last two starts. The righty had a 1.75 ERA in his previous four outings.
"It's frustrating; the last couple have been frustrating,'' Garza said after permitting six runs and seven hits in five innings in Sunday's 10-4 loss to Pittsburgh. "I need to keep going and going hard. It's going to turn - and it's got to turn."
Garza, who hasn't lost three consecutive starts since May 21-31, 2010, gave up two runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-2 win over the Giants on Aug. 30, his lone appearance versus San Francisco.
- San Francisco Giants
- San Francisco
- Matt Cain