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Sunday, June 26, 2011
Giants go for sweep by the Bay


The San Francisco Giants go for the sweep of the Cleveland Indians tonight at 8 ET on ESPN. The Giants won the first two games by just one run each, improving to 22-11 in games decided by a single run, which is easily the best mark among NL teams and tied with the Rays for tops in MLB.

Despite being under .500 at the beginning of May, and enduring a recent five-game losing streak which had dropped them out of first place in the NL West, the Giants are 43-34 heading into tonight’s game. That means they are already ahead of last year’s World Series-winning pace, when they were just 40-37 in their first 77 games.

The Indians got off to a blazing start this year, winning 30 of their first 45 games. The team’s success was built on a starting rotation that had a 3.60 ERA during the first 45 contests, combined with an offense that averaged more than five runs per game and hit .321 with runners in scoring position.

However, the Indians have struggled of late, losing 20 of their last 30 games. During this losing stretch, the starters have posted a 5.19 ERA, while the offense is averaging just 3.1 runs per game and hitting .190 with runners in scoring position.

The pitching matchup features two players trying to bounce back from recent struggles. Fausto Carmona is 1-6 with a 9.73 ERA in his past seven starts, and has allowed at least four runs in eight straight starts. His 8.55 ERA in June is the worst among qualified starters.

Carmona has been hit hard over his past seven starts, with more than 25 percent of his balls in play resulting in line drives, compared to only 10 percent in his first nine turns.

Carmona enters the game with a 4-9 record, looking to avoid becoming the fifth Indians pitcher in the past 25 years to have double-digit losses before the All-Star break, and the first since Paul Byrd in 2008.

Madison Bumgarner made history -- in a bad way -- in his last start on June 21 against the Twins, becoming the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to allow nine hits and record less than two outs in a game.

Bumgarner, with a 3-9 record, is also trying to avoid his 10th loss this season. He would be the fifth Giants pitcher over the past 25 seasons to have 10 losses before the All-Star break, and the first since Barry Zito in 2008. He’ll have to overcome his struggles in San Francisco, where he is 0-5 this season and has just one home win in 16 career starts.

If the game is close in the late innings again, the Giants might have the edge, but not by much. They lead the majors with 14 wins in their last at-bat, while the Indians have 12 last-at-bat victories, ranking second in the AL. The Giants have the third-best bullpen ERA in the majors (2.96), while the Indians’ relievers are just behind them with a 2.97 ERA.

--Jeremy Lundblad contributed to this post