Astros-Giants Preview

The Associated Press

San Francisco's Matt Cain had the privilege of starting the All-Star game for the NL this past week.

One of the biggest reasons he was rewarded with that honor was for the performance he had against the Houston Astros last month.

Facing the Astros for the first time since his perfect game, Cain looks to help the NL West-leading Giants complete the sweep in Sunday's finale and send Houston to a 13th straight road loss.

Cain (9-3, 2.62 ERA) made history June 13, throwing the majors' 22nd perfect game and the first in the franchise's 129-year history in a 10-0 win. He overpowered the Astros by striking out a career-high 14, but also benefited from a couple of outstanding plays by his corner outfielders.

The victory was part of an eight-start winning streak for Cain, who set the tone in Tuesday's All-Star game with two innings of one-hit ball in the NL's 8-0 win.

"There's not much more that could end the first half better than that," he told the Giants' official website.

Although Cain was one of baseball's top pitchers over the season's first half, he wasn't quite as sharp in his final three starts before the break, going 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA and San Francisco (48-40) losing each.

There are several reasons he could have better luck in his first outing of the second half.

The Astros (33-55) have lost 12 of 13 overall and are mired in their first 12-game road losing streak since ending the 1996 season with 12 consecutive defeats. They haven't dropped 13 in a row away from Houston in a single season since June 1990.

An anemic offense has been the biggest reason the team hasn't won a road game since taking the finale at AT&T Park a day after Cain's gem last month. The Astros are averaging 2.2 runs and batting .207 during the road skid, and this seemingly doesn't bode well for facing Cain, who is 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in three home starts in the series since 2008.

Making matters even worse, Jed Lowrie, who has a team-high 14 homers, likely will miss some time after spraining his right ankle in the third inning in Saturday's 3-2, 12-inning loss.

The Giants looked like they were going to cruise to victory behind Tim Lincecum, who struck out 11 over eight innings, but closer Santiago Casilla allowed two runs with two outs in the ninth. The tying run scored on catcher Hector Sanchez's error - an ill-advised throw to first in an attempt to negate a dropped third strike.

Three innings later, Sanchez redeemed himself by singling home Pablo Sandoval to help the Giants move one-half game ahead of Los Angeles in the division.

"That's what we have to do," Sanchez said. "We have to keep working, keep playing and never give up."

Sanchez finished with a career-high four hits, while Melky Cabrera singled twice to raise his major league-leading total to 122 hits.

The Giants now try to frustrate Bud Norris (5-6, 4.71), who has an 8.25 ERA in losing his last five starts.

Despite an inflated ERA, the righty pitched well in his final outing before the All-Star break, yielding two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 2-0 setback to Pittsburgh. That was his second start after a stint on the disabled list because of a sprained left knee suffered in San Francisco on June 12. He left that outing with one out in the fourth inning having already allowed three runs.

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