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Cain fans five over seven strong innings

The Astros get to return home Tuesday, but they'll receive a welcome that's hardly warm.

Matt Cain will be there to greet them.

You might remember a certain meeting between Cain and the Astros earlier this season, when Cain threw a perfect game at AT&T Park. The Astros, who have dropped 11 of their last 13, certainly don't want a repeat of June 13.

This is Cain's third date with the Astros already this season. He struck out 14 in his perfect game, and he picked up another win July 15 in San Francisco, when he allowed just one earned run over 6 1/3 innings, striking out six Astros.

Cain, the starting pitcher for the National League All-Star team, will match a career high with his next win. He also ranked sixth in the NL in ERA (2.83) and eighth in strikeouts (159) entering play Sunday.

And more bad news for Houston -- it's catching the righty on a hot streak. Cain has won each of his last three starts. In those three outings, he's pitched a total of 22 1/3 innings and allowed just four runs for a 1.61 ERA.

In his last outing, Cain beat the Dodgers to cap off a series sweep, but the right-hander said after the game that he figured both teams would battle to the wire for the National League West. And that was before the mega-trade that went down this past weekend that netted the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, plus injured Carl Crawford.

"You would doubt that anything happens where one team runs away with it," Cain said. "Obviously you'd love to. More than likely it'll come down to that last week."

Still, Cain will have to be focused on Houston, particularly because he has not pitched well at Minute Maid Park. In four career games there (three starts), he's 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA. Only Busch Stadium has produced a higher ERA for Cain among NL ballparks.

For the Giants, each new game brings more meaning, as they're chasing a division title. Their task of holding off the Dodgers just got more difficult, too, after the Dodgers' blockbuster trade with Boston on Saturday.

Houston, meanwhile, will counter with right-hander Bud Norris, who hasn't won since May 21 against the Cubs. In four August starts, the righty is 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA.

In his last outing, Norris picked up a quality start, allowing just three runs over six innings of work. But he took the loss, as the Astros' offense could muster only two runs against the Cardinals. It was a big improvement over his prior outing, when he lasted 3 1/3 innings at Wrigley Field, allowing six runs on eight hits, including three home runs.

Norris held a one-run lead but allowed the tying run to score on a wild pitch.

"I was trying to throw a good slider," Norris said. "I got out in front. ... It's a tough break for sure. But that's how it's been this year, unfortunately."

Norris has already seen the Giants twice this season. He's 0-2 and was on the losing end of Cain's win July 15.

Giants: Pence back in Houston
Outfielder Hunter Pence returns to Minute Maid Park, this time as a member of the Giants. After playing more than four seasons for the Astros, Pence was traded to Philadelphia in the middle of the 2011 season. He was again dealt to the Giants in the middle of this season.

This will be Pence's second series as a visitor in Houston. He played in three games at Minute Maid Park with the Phillies last September, going 4-for-11 with a double, a home run, a run scored, an RBI and a walk.

• Catchers Buster Posey (67 RBIs) and Hector Sanchez (25 RBIs) have combined for 93 RBIs while catching for the Giants this season, which is the most combined RBIs among catchers on one team in the big leagues so far this year.

• The Giants are 49-16 (.754) this season when they score the game's first run.

Astros: Young guns
Houston has used 10 rookies this season and currently has the youngest active Major League roster with an average age of 26.4, according to ESPN. The Astros' 23 players on the Major League roster that are under 30 years of age also are the most in the Majors. At 21 years old, right-hander Jordan Lyles is the youngest member of the Astros' Major League roster and the youngest active starting pitcher in the Majors.

• Norris has 130 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings this season and has averaged nearly one strikeout per inning in his career with 518 strikeouts in 527 innings pitched. His mark of 8.89 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter ranks 13th in the Majors and ninth in the NL.

• Right-handed pitcher Lucas Harrell leads NL rookies in innings pitched with 158 1/3 and ranks second in wins, with 10, trailing only Arizona's Wade Miley.

Worth noting
• The only Astros player Cain has faced with much frequency is catcher Chris Snyder. Often combatants from Snyder's NL West days in Arizona, the catcher is just 2-for-14 in his career vs. Cain, though those two hits are a double and a home run.

• If Bruce Bochy needs a home run off the bench in Tuesday's game, he might want to turn to pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Aside from Marco Scutaro, Bumgarner is the only Giants player to go deep off Norris. He smacked a solo shot in his only at-bat against Norris when the two faced off June 12 in San Francisco. Comments