Houston Astros vs. San Francisco Giants Preview and Pick – (Backe vs. Cain)

Houston Astros (22-17) – Brandon Backe +115, 8 O/U at San Francisco Giants (16-23) – Matt Cain -125, 8 O/U, AT&T Park, 10:15 PM EST, Tuesday
by Badger of Predictem.com

If the San Francisco Giants hope to get a victory over the Houston Astros in game two of their four-game series at AT&T Park Tuesday, they are going to have to find some way to slow down the red-hot Lance Berkman.

Berkman is hitting .641 in May (25-for-39), has eight multi-hit games, has reached base in 28 of his last 37 plate appearances and has scored at least one run in 15 straight games. Berkmans heroics are the main reason the Astros are 9-1 in the month of May and moving up the standings in the National League Central.

Berkman, who hit a two-run homerun and added a double in their 7-3 victory over the Giants Monday, will try and support starter Brandon Backe when he trots out to the mound in game two for the Stros. Houston will be trying to win their fifth game in a row after sweeping the Dodgers in their previous series.

Backe (2-4, 4.64) has had an up-n-down campaign in 2008 so far, including his last time out when he allowed four runs in six innings in the Astros only loss of the month, a 8-3 loss to Washington last Thursday.


Giants starter Matt Cain will be the pitcher given the task of trying to stop the freight train that is Berkman. Cain (1-3, 4.30) had pitched the Giants to three straight wins until his last start, a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh Thursday. In the loss Cain gave up nine hits and all five runs in 6.1 innings.

Cain is hoping a return to the home field of AT&T will spark him again, as Cain is 4-2 with a 2.24 ERA in his last nine starts in the spacious stadium.

Baseball oddsmakers opened the game with Cain and the Giants as -125 favorites on the moneyline, with Houston listed as +115 underdogs. The over/under total opened at 8.

If history repeats itself, Cain and the Giants may have a battle on their hands tonight. Cain is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his two career starts versus the Astros, but more importantly, Berkman is 1-for-3 with a two-run homerun in his only at bats versus the righty.

Meanwhile, Backe has an excellent history versus the Giants. The only complete game the righty has ever pitched came against the Giants (in 2005), and he is 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in three career starts. But those numbers are misleading because Backe has only gone past the sixth inning once this year.

Berkman is not doing alone by any means, as both Miguel Tejada (hitting .340 for the season) and Hunter Pence (hitting .454 on the road trip) have turned up the heat at the plate as well for the Astros.

The loss last night snapped the Giants modest two game win streak, making them 2-6 in their last eight games overall. San Francisco is glad to be back home at AT&T where they are 10-10 this season, compared to their paltry 6-13 away from the Bay.

Frisco, who managed only seven hits last night versus Roy Oswalt, will need to turn up the dial at the plate if they hope to get Cain enough run support. Veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel returned to action Saturday and is 4-for-10 with three walks since getting back in the Giants lineup. They will need him along with other veterans like Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn to continue to hit if they wish to climb closer to the .500 mark.

Historically the Giants have had the Astros number, as they swept them in AT&T last year and own a 40-17 record in their last 57 games played head-to-head. But with Berkman swinging a hot stick, those historical facts mean little.

The Giants also seem to dislike the second day of the week as well, as they are just 7-20 in their last 27 games played on Tuesday.

The over/under betting trends are a wash, as the Giants over/under record is 4-4 in Cains eight starts (and 20-19 for the season) and the Astros are 3-5 in Backes eight starts (17-22 for 2008).

Badgers Pick: Im not a huge fan of Backe when hes on the bump, but Im riding the red hot Astros here, especially if youre going to give them to me at the underdog price of +115. Houston wins a low scoring game. Take the underdog Astros tonight.