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WSH@SD: Roark fans 11 over eight scoreless frames

AT&T Park isn't exactly a heavenly haven for hitters.

Its alleys are cavernous, the right-field wall high and the nighttime air damp -- all adding up to a pitcher's paradise.

The guys on the mound with the Nationals visiting AT&T Park this week have made the park's batting box a particularly undesirable destination for hitters.

The Nationals and Giants are first and second, respectively, in team ERA since the beginning of May. It's easy to see why after one glance at the rosters. Bumgarner. Fister. Strasburg. And those are just three who have started in the first two games of the four-game set.

Matt Cain (1-3, 3.52 ERA) and Tanner Roark (4-4, 2.91 ERA) get their turns in this pitching lovers' delight of a series Wednesday.

Cain dominated the Mets last Friday in his first start since a stint on the disabled list, allowing two earned runs on three hits in seven innings.

Cain is 5-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 13 career starts against Washington.

He'll be opposed by Roark, who's starting against San Francisco for the first time in his career. His previous two outings against the Giants were as a reliever; the right-hander held them scoreless in two innings.

This time, Roark is one of the Nationals' hottest pitchers -- just ask the Padres. Last Friday, Roark was almost unhittable against San Diego, as the Nationals blanked the Padres, 6-0, at Petco Park.

On April 26, Roark dominated the Padres at Nationals Park, allowing just three hits in a 4-0 affair. It wasn't much different than this past Friday. Roark allowed three hits in eight innings, a double to Yonder Alonso in the third and singles to Rene Rivera and Tommy Medica in the eighth inning.

"He has been pitching like that for us all year," manager Matt Williams said. "I saw a stat today: He has nine quality starts for us this year. That's really good. He continues to pound the zone -- all of his pitches. Pretty impressive."

Giants: A worthy challenger has been found
After completing a three-game sweep of the Mets on Sunday, manager Bruce Bochy cautioned against being too happy about the Giants' position atop the Majors, citing both the calendar and that the Giants haven't played every National League club yet.

Washington was one of those clubs San Francisco had yet to encounter. Given the Giants' record and the Nationals' highly talented roster, a meeting in October isn't too far of a stretch of the imagination.

It's been just two games in early June, but the Nationals have shown why there's no cause for celebration yet on the shores on McCovey Cove. Winners of nine of their last 11, the Nationals figure to be worthy challengers in the fall if the Giants are to remain on their path to the postseason.

"They got a chance," Madison Bumgarner said Tuesday night when asked about Washington's potential. "I think they've got a pretty good lineup and they've got some good pitching, so they've got a well-rounded team. It comes down to whether they execute or not, but they definitely got the talent over there."

Nationals: Desmond and Werth successful vs. Cain
With Cain starting Wednesday, it will be interesting to see how Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth fare against him.

Desmond has faced Cain 12 times and was able to get five hits with a home run, while Werth is 4-for-6 (.667).

Desmond is also one of the hottest hitters on the Nationals, going 9-for-27 in his last seven games. Werth is the only player who ranks among the National League's top five in slugging, OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), batting average and on-base percentage.

Worth noting
• Nationals starting pitchers have struck out 54 hitters in their last eight starts. They've allowed just two walks in those eight games.

• Prior to Tuesday night, the Giants hadn't lost back-to-back games since May 16-17 against Miami. A loss Wednesday would tie their longest losing streak of the season.

• The Giants haven't lost a series since dropping two of three in Pittsburgh from May 5-7.

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