San Francisco stole the show at Tuesday's All-Star Game. The Giants hope to be shining brightly again come October and kick off their second half this evening with the first of three straight games against the road-challenged Houston Astros.
The Giants dropped seven of their final nine games before the break, leaving them a half-game behind the Dodgers for first place in the National League West. But San Francisco could have plenty of momentum after a trio of its stars helped the NL to an 8-0 win at Kansas City earlier in the week.
Pablo Sandoval drove in three runs on a first-inning triple off AL starter Justin Verlander, while Melky Cabrera clubbed a two-run homer as part of a two-hit game on the way to MVP honors. Starter Matt Cain earned the win with two scoreless innings.
Cabrera was the surprise star of the Giants' first half, hitting .353 and matching a San Francisco-era team record with 51 hits in May. He figures to be key for the Giants in the second half as well.
"It would be great, but I just have to keep focused and just keep doing the same thing that I've done in the first half, keep doing it in the second half and hopefully I can help my team make it to the playoffs," said Cabrera, who the Giants acquired from the Royals this past offseason.
San Francisco has stayed in contention despite ace Tim Lincecum struggling all season long. Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong all stepped up over the first half and Bumgarner will get the start tonight.
The 22-year-old lefty won his team-leading 10th game of the season on June 28 with a one-hit shutout of the Reds on June 28, but then dropped a 9-4 decision to the Nationals in his last outing on July 4. He was charged with seven runs on nine hits over five frames, yielding three homers while striking out seven.
Bumgarner is 10-5 with a 3.27 earned run average through 17 starts this year, including a 6-1 mark and 1.88 ERA in seven at home.
He is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA in three career meetings with the Astros, besting them at home on June 12 as he struck out a season-high 12 batters over 7 2/3 innings. Bumgarner also hit his first career homer in that victory.
The former first-round pick's lone loss to the Astros came in Houston on Aug. 20 of last year against then-rookie Jordan Lyles, who starts tonight for the Astros.
The encounter is the only one for Lyles in his brief career versus the Giants and he gave up two unearned runs over five innings.
The 21-year-old righty is 2-5 with a 5.08 ERA in 11 starts this season, allowing seven runs over just four innings in a loss to Pittsburgh on July 2 before rebounding on Sunday versus the Brewers. Lyles gave up a pair of runs over seven frames, but did not factor into a 5-3 loss.
Lyles is still looking for his first career road victory, going 0-7 with a 6.46 ERA in 16 lifetime outings as the guest.
Houston got off to a good start, but is now 15 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central. The Astros lost 10 of their past 11, getting shut out three times over that span.
"We're all confident in each other and our abilities," Lyles said. "We've been pitching pretty well and we're going to bring the sticks the second half I'm sure."
Houston, though, is expected to be sellers before the trade deadline after have already shipped away one player, sending Carlos Lee to the Marlins for a pair of prospects days before the break.
The Astros open the second half with 10 straight on the road, where they are 9-32 on the season.
The Giants won two of three over the Astros at home in mid-June and have claimed 14 of the last 21 meetings overall.