After a stellar July, Matt Cain hopes a new month will produce the same results.
Trying for a fourth straight victory, Cain looks to become the NL's first 13-game winner when the San Francisco Giants open a three-game road series with the Houston Astros on Monday night.Cain (12-2, 2.12 ERA) threw a three-hitter over nine innings in a 1-0, 10-inning win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday to finish 3-0 with an 0.94 ERA in six starts during July.The right-hander, who last lost at Milwaukee on June 26, can surpass teammate and 2008 NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum for the team lead in wins while matching his career high from his rookie 2006 season."I don't know if anything's different," said Cain, who was named to the All-Star team this season but was unable to participate because of an arm injury. "I'm just trying to take that little step of improvement of being more focused, and I think that's what has helped me a ton."So have his teammates.After Cain received an NL-low 3.14 runs of support per game last year, the Giants are averaging 5.15 per contest for him this season.Cain is 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA against the Astros (52-53), who are coming off a 2-5 road trip, but have won the last four meetings between the teams in Houston.Though San Francisco (58-47) took two of three from the Astros at home July 3-5, it's 21-31 on the road this season.The Giants, however, are coming off a 6-1 homestand after beating NL East-leader Philadelphia 7-3 on Sunday.In his first game since being acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh, second baseman Freddy Sanchez went 2 for 4 with two RBIs for the Giants, who have won eight of their last 11 contests and are tied with Colorado atop the wild-card standings."Obviously it's a different type of feeling any time you get traded," said Sanchez, who won the NL batting title in 2006. "But everyone's made me feel at home and that feels good."Sanchez is a lifetime .296 hitter versus Houston, but is 0 for 8 against the Astros' Mike Hampton (6-8, 5.36), who allowed a season-high nine runs and eight hits in four innings of a 12-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.Hampton gave up six runs in the first inning of his last outing. In the first innings of his 18 starts this year, he has an ERA of 12.00, compared to 4.04 from the second inning on."Most of his starts he's been able to get right after he's given up one or two (runs in the first inning)," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "(Wednesday) was a tough day for him."The left-hander has pitched well against the Giants, however, going 15-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 23 starts. He went 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA versus them last season.Miguel Tejada had two hits with an RBI and rookie Bud Norris allowed two hits over seven innings in his first start to help Houston snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-0 win at St. Louis on Sunday."We needed a win in the worst way," said Cooper, who's team is averaging three runs while winning twice in its last nine games.Tejada is batting .327, but is 2 for 13 against San Francisco this season.