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Game Three Preview: Matt Cain Needs To Rebound

(Sports Network) - The New York Mets are hoping something will give when they take on the San Francisco Giants Saturday night in the third installment of a four-game set at AT&T Park.

New York has lost the first two games of this set and has been shut out twice to start an 11-game road trip out west. After losing 2-0 in Thursday's series opener, the Mets suffered a 1-0 loss last night and wasted a strong effort from starter Jon Niese. Niese gave up only a run on six hits and three walks through six innings, and struck out four.

Ruben Tejada, David Wright and Carlos Beltran provided the three hits for the Mets, who have lost five of six and remain five games behind Atlanta for the National League East lead. Beltran has a hit in each of his first two games since returning from offseason knee surgery.

"We have to be a little bit more consistent offensively," said Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "We got a good pitching performance from Jon Niese and we played good defense."

The Mets are also 1 1/2 games off the lead in the NL Wild Card race and will also visit Arizona and Los Angeles on the current trek.

Mike Pelfrey was slated to pitch today for New York, but was pushed back until Monday because of stiffness in his neck. Hisanori Takahashi is slated to take the mound instead and is 7-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 25 games (9 starts) this season. The rookie left-hander is coming off a no-decision on July 10 in a 4-0 loss versus Atlanta, as he threw three shutout innings.

Takahashi was credited with a win over the Giants back on May 8 in a 5-4 verdict, when he delivered a scoreless inning and two strikeouts.

San Francisco has won four straight and eight of its last nine games, and received a great outing from Barry Zito last night. The lefty threw eight shutout innings and allowed two hits with a pair of walks and 10 K's. Brian Wilson struck out two and gave up a hit in the ninth for his 24th save.

"These are the type of games you have to win if you think you're a contender," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

The Giants are tied with the Dodgers at 3 1/2 games behind San Diego for NL West bragging rights and even with both LA and St. Louis at a half-game behind the pace in the wild card standings.

It's been a streaky season for Giants starter Matt Cain, who will try to put the brakes on another winless streak when he takes the mound Saturday night. Before winning four straight starts from May 28-June 13 Cain was riding a personal three-game losing streak.

Now Cain is back on a losing binge, going 0-4 with a 7.45 earned run average in his last five trips to the mound -- all San Francisco losses. The trend continued in an 8-1 loss at Washington on July 9, when Cain gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- and 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings. The loss dropped him to 6-8 in 18 starts and raised his ERA from 2.98 to 3.34.

The bulky right-hander will try to push his career mark against the Mets over the .500 mark tonight. In seven career meetings (all starts) with New York, Cain is 3-3 with a 4.26 ERA.

The Mets had won in nine of their last 12 stops at AT&T Park before losing the first two portions of this series by the Bay.