Probable Starting Pitchers: San Francisco - Matt Cain (6-7, 2.98) Washington - Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.45)
(Sports Network) - Stephen Strasburg is quickly finding out that its hard to win games when his team has had trouble scoring runs. It's a problem San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain can certainly relate to.
Strasburg will be attempting to halt a four-start winless streak when the young phenom takes the mound for the Washington Nationals for tonight's opener of a three-game series with Cain's Giants.
After winning his first two major league starts in dominating fashion, Strasburg has recorded two losses and a pair of no-decisions. The 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick can hardly be faulted for the drought, however, considering he's allowed two or less runs in three of those four starts. The Nationals were shut out in both of his defeats, including a 1-0 setback to Kansas City on June 23 in which Strasburg struck out nine and permitted just the one run in six innings of work.
The 21-year-old wasn't overly sharp in his most recent outing, though, as he issued three walks and labored through 96 pitches over five innings against the division-rival Mets last Saturday. Strasburg did manage to hold New York to two runs and wound up without a decision in a game Washington rallied late to win by a 6-5 count.
Despite his modest 2-2 record at the moment, Strasburg has recorded an impressive 2.45 earned run average since his well-publicized callup to the majors in early June and has struck out a eye-opening 53 hitters over his first 36 2/3 innings in the big leagues.
Cain has had issues with run support at times as well. The talented right- hander lost 14 games for an offensively-challenged Giants team in 2008, even though he produced a respectable 3.78 ERA in 34 starts, and is just 6-7 so far this season despite a 2.98 ERA. San Francisco has mustered two runs or fewer in all but one of those losses.
The 2009 National League All-Star has struggled as of late, however, having gone 0-3 with a 6.85 ERA in four starts since a June 13 besting of Oakland. Cain was able to deliver a solid effort in Sunday's matchup at Colorado, though, pitching seven innings and surrendering three runs while fanning six in a no-decision.
Facing the Nationals could help Cain get back on track. The former first-round pick has amassed a 4-0 record with a 1.62 ERA over his last five encounters with Washington and has yielded only two runs over a combined 11 1/3 innings in winning both of his career visits to Nationals Park.
In eight overall starts against Washington, Cain is 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA.
The Giants will be entering tonight's tilt on a roll, having just swept a four-game set in Milwaukee and putting up 36 runs over the course of the series. After pounding out 18 hits in a 15-2 rout of the Brewers on Wednesday, San Francisco homered three times en route to a 9-3 triumph in yesterday's finale.
Aubrey Huff had a two-run blast in Thursday's win and drove in four runs to lead the Giants' latest offensive outburst. Andres Torres and Buster Posey also went deep in the finale, while Freddy Sanchez finished 3-for-5 with two RBI to help San Francisco to its first-ever four-game sweep at Miller Park.
"We played as good a series as we've played all year," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "[Thursday's] game wasn't the greatest in the world on either side, but the win gave us a four-game sweep and we'll take that any day."
Posey played a huge role in the sweep, as the highly-regarded rookie catcher went 9-for-15 with four homers and nine RBI in the four victories. He drove in six runs in Wednesday's shellacking and is now batting .336 with six homers and 20 RBI in 35 games since being promoted from the minors in late May.
The Giants have moved within five games of first-place San Diego in the NL West standings with their recent surge. The Nationals helped them close the gap by taking two of three bouts with the Padres this week, although San Diego averted a sweep with a 7-1 decision in Thursday's finale.
Roger Bernadina and Adam Kennedy each ended 2-for-4 in the loss, while Adam Dunn knocked in the lone Washington run with an eighth-inning single. Nats starter Luis Atilano (6-6) was reached for four runs on eight hits, including a pair of homers, over the first 5 1/3 innings.
The Giants won two of three games from the Nationals at AT&T Park from May 25-27 and are 13-3 against Washington since the start of the 2008 campaign. San Francisco has gone 6-1 at Nationals Park during that time period.