Giants Vs. Astros: Series Preview

You'll probably recall the last time the San Francisco Giants played the Houston Astros, because it featured one Matt Cain putting up a perfect game.

And guess who's going against the Astros on Tuesday ...

Game 1, August 28, 5:05 p.m. PT -- Matt Cain (13-5, 2.83 ERA) vs. Bud Norris (5-11, 5.19)
Cain's perfect game notwithstanding, he's also been very good against Houston in his other start, as he gave up just one earned run over 6.1 innings while striking out six in a victory on July 15.

In fact, I'm not sure there's a better deal than getting to pitch against the 'Stros once a month. It doesn't hurt to face Norris either. The Astros pitcher walked six guys in his last start against the Giants, which was also Cain's last start. In fact, Norris is 0-2 against the Giants this year, giving up six earned runs in 9.1 innings with nine walks issued and 11 strikeouts.

It's a polar opposite game and exactly the sort of thing the Giants need to stop the bleeding, having lost two-straight games and watched the Dodgers creep up on them in the West.

"Maybe at times we press [in San Francisco]," Tim Lincecum said earlier this week. "When you go on the road, you relax a little bit."

Houston is certainly relaxing. One big concern for the Giants, though, is that Buster Posey might not be catching Cain. It's possible Posey will need to keep recovering from his hamstring injury. Doing so against Houston is a good time to do it.

Game 2, August 29, 5:05 p.m. PT -- Barry Zito (10-8, 4.31) vs. Dallas Kuechel (1-6, 5.40)
If you're going to put your worst starter on the mound, which is basically what the Giants are doing with Zito, Kuechel is kind of the guy you want him going against. He's lost six-straight starts and has an 7.34 ERA in those starts.

Of bigger concern than producing offense (because that should just happen by default) might be Zito starting to really struggle. He's got a 4.91 ERA since the All-Star Break, which is nearly a full run higher than his first half ERA.

Not helping is the fact that he's already 0-1 against the Astros this year, going Subway style and giving up five earned runs on five hits over five innings. A win here is kind of a steal for the Giants.

Game 3, August 30, 5:05 p.m. PT -- Ryan Vogelsong (11-7, 2.90) vs. Jordan Lyles (3-10, 5.47)
Speaking of awesome starters, who is this Lyles kid? I say that half-kidding. The Astros are just terrible.

Lyles has a 5.99 ERA since the All-Star Break and picked up his first win since late June in a recent strong outing against the Mets. Maybe he keeps coming on strong against the Giants, but the smart money is on him putting up a bad outing. The Giants have a .331 OBP versus righties (which Lyles is) instead of a .310 OBP against lefties.

One of the biggest things to watch for in this series, though, is if Hunter Pence can get going against his old(est) team. In five games against the Astros in his career, he has a .400 batting average and three home runs. Clearly he's comfortable playing in Minute Maid Park and now would be a decent time to get rolling.

If he can do that, it's possible there's a broom involved for San Francisco in Houston.

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