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SF@OAK: Cain tosses seven impressive frames vs. A's

As the Nationals continue to surge as the National League's winningest team, they're slowing the Giants' own summer surge -- another sign things are on the upswing in the nation's capital in 2012.

For three straight seasons ending with the Giants' 2010 World Series championship campaign, San Francisco took the annual series at Washington's home park. In 2011, the Nationals took three of four -- beating Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain -- to start a winning trend against the NL West powerhouse that has continued.

Having beaten the first two in the span of about 20 hours, the Nationals now have "Mr. Perfect" on their hands again. Cain meets the hot Nationals lineup and left-hander Ross Detwiler in the finale of the only meeting between the two teams in Washington this season.

At a season-high 15 games over .500, the NL East-leading Nationals are enjoying the early summer heat of contending, putting big numbers on two strong Giants starters. With 18 runs in the first two games, the Nationals are at a plus-59 run differential -- the best showing in that department since the Nationals landed in D.C. in 2005.

It's not about showing another division leader how they do things in D.C., but the Nationals are beginning to feel comfortable out front.

"We know that if we come out and play our type of baseball, good clean baseball -- we pitch well and play good defense -- our offense will be there when we need it," said Ian Desmond, the shortstop who continues to contribute from all over the lineup. "We need to start worrying about what we're doing. We're not worried about who's in first place in the other division."

Cain obviously provides a challenge to the Nationals and gives the Giants an opportunity to put their stopper on the mound. Cain has delivered two of his poorer starts since twirling a perfect game against the Astros on June 13, including an 11-hit outing in which he allowed five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Reds during his last time out.

Now a three-time All-Star, Cain was 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA in June before his rough outing against the Reds, losing for the first time since May 1.

"He was having trouble getting the ball where he wanted. It's going to happen," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

As for his mound opponent, Detwiler is still a work in progress since rejoining the Nats' rotation on June 24. He was very good through six innings against Atlanta in his last time out before he gave up four runs and the lead in what turned into a 5-4 victory.

Giants: Pagan's woes shuffle OF
• With the entire outfield struggling a bit, Bochy left Angel Pagan out of the lineup on Wednesday, shifting Gregor Blanco from right to center and giving Nate Schierholtz a turn in right after he'd started just three of the Giants' previous 19 games.

With the quick turnaround from Tuesday's rain-delayed night game to the Wednesday morning start, Bochy went with the scratch on Pagan, who had a .188 average (13-for-69) in his last 19 games. "It's fair to say Angel's struggling right now," Bochy said.

Pagan wound up entering the game late, going 0-for-2. Schierholtz went 0-for-3 before being replaced on a double-switch.

• In taking the loss on Wednesday in his final start before the All-Star break, Bumgarner fell short of becoming the first Giants pitcher to record 11 wins before the break.

Nationals: Big bats heating up
• With Ryan Zimmerman all the way back and Michael Morse finding his form, the Nationals are getting the most out of the middle of their lineup.

Both Zimmerman and Morse hit homers on Wednesday -- with each right-handed hitter poking a ball out over the wall in right-center -- and the Nationals continued to put big numbers on the board. Zimmerman has hit in nine of his last 10 and has six multi-hit games during that span, while Morse is on a 16-for-35 (.457) run with three homers.

"We're healthier, we're getting more consistent. The more you can throw out the same lineup, the more consistent you can be," Zimmerman said.

• Nationals manager Davey Johnson, when asked if his club resembles the Giants' pitching-first championship club from 2010: "Good pitching, speed and defense. They've got a good bullpen, too. You generally start with your pitching. Pitching also can make your defense better. But they've been a pretty good hitting ballclub. [In] this day and time, you have to be pretty good in all aspects of the game. They've pretty much gone by the rule pitching No. 1, and probably pitching No. 2."

Worth noting
• The Nationals now have held the NL's best record for nine days, having held the top spot for only three days since 2005 -- all coming in the opening days of 2008.

• The Giants and Nationals will meet again Aug. 13-15 at AT&T Park.

• Following Thursday's game, the Giants will continue their East Coast road swing with three games at Pittsburgh, while the Nationals prepare to host the Rockies for the weekend.

• The Nationals will pay tribute to the 1924 World Series-winning Senators on Thursday on Turn Back the Clock Night. The Nationals and Giants will wear 1924 replica jerseys, and the grounds crew and gameday staff will be dressed in full 1920s attire. Comments