Giants-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

Behind one of baseball's top pitching staffs, the surging San Francisco Giants have gotten off to a strong start in their season series with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now they might need that pitching more than ever entering a stretch without one of the NL's top sluggers.

While Brandon Belt is headed to the disabled list, Matt Cain is slated to come off it Saturday, and he'll look to lead visiting San Francisco to a seventh win in nine meetings with the Dodgers.

The first-place Giants (23-13) rank among major league leaders with a 3.01 ERA, and they've pitched particularly well with a 2.28 mark in their eight meetings with Los Angeles (19-18).

Madison Bumgarner became the latest San Francisco hurler to stymie the Dodgers on Friday when he held them to one run over eight innings in a 3-1 victory in the second of a four-game set.

However, the Giants' 12th win in 15 games proved costly when Belt suffered a broken left thumb when he was hit by a pitch in the second inning. The first baseman ranks among NL leaders with nine home runs while hitting .264 with 18 RBIs, and is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks, according to manager Bruce Bochy.

"That's a blow for us because of the job he does at first base and the fact that he hits in the heart of our order," Bochy said.

It would certainly make things easier if Cain (0-3, 4.65 ERA) can continue the team's run of success on the mound. The right-hander appears ready to return after he sliced the tip of his right index finger while trying to make a sandwich.

While his winless start can partly be attributed to receiving a combined six runs of support in his first four outings, Cain has only himself to blame after a rough performance in a 12-10, 11-inning win at Colorado on April 23. He gave up two homers while yielding seven runs over six-plus innings.

He served up three home runs - two to Matt Kemp and one to Hanley Ramirez - in six innings of a 6-2 loss at Dodger Stadium on April 6. That marked the only time the Giants gave up more than four runs to Los Angeles this season.

Kemp is 4 for 11 with three homers against Cain the past two seasons, while Ramirez has gone 4 for 10 over that span.

The Dodgers, who have lost a season-high three in a row, haven't scored more than two runs in four of their last five games. Adrian Gonzalez is 1 for 27 in his last seven, but Yasiel Puig is batting .405 over a nine-game hitting streak after homering Friday.

That home run sparked some tension, as Puig flipped his bat after making contact and took a slow trot around the bases. Bumgarner walked toward the third base line and had a few choice words for Puig as he approached home plate.

''Honestly, I think Puig overreacted a little bit. I don't know,'' Dodgers teammate Scott Van Slyke said.

Puig is 3 for 8 with a homer and two doubles lifetime against Cain.

Los Angeles starter Zack Greinke (5-1, 2.35) also opposed Cain in early April, allowing two runs in six innings for his first win in three career starts versus the Dodgers.

The right-hander should be well-rested after throwing only 54 pitches over three innings Monday in Washington before a rain delay ended his night. He gave up two runs and five hits in a 4-0 defeat.

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