By BRETT HUSTON
(AP) -- Matt Cain wasn't responsible for the majors' most recent perfect game. He was, in some ways, an afterthought in his last start despite pitching nine innings.
It's still tough to imagine a pitcher having much better back-to-back outings than the ones Cain has recently delivered.
The San Francisco right-hander has surrendered only three hits while logging 18 innings over his last two starts, an incredible run he'll look to continue as the visiting Giants open a three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Cain signed a five-year extension worth $112.5 million just days before the season began, and after a shaky season debut, Cain (1-0, 1.88 ERA) has looked worthy of the largest contract ever given to a right-hander.
Only a single by Pittsburgh pitcher James McDonald on April 13 kept Cain from beating Chicago's Philip Humber to perfection in a 5-0 win in which he struck out 11.
He followed that performance by holding Philadelphia to two hits over nine innings Wednesday, but didn't get a decision there as Cliff Lee held the Giants (8-7) without a run through 10. San Francisco finally broke through in the 11th for a 1-0 win.
"I don't know if I've ever seen back-to-back games thrown so well," Bochy said of Cain's performances.
Perhaps fittingly, Cain on Tuesday will try to become the first pitcher to make it through nine scoreless innings in three straight starts since Lee from June 16-28 last season.
There's reason to believe he can. Cain is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in his last three starts versus Cincinnati, and went the distance in a 3-0 win in his last outing at Great American Ball Park on June 8, 2010.
He isn't the only San Francisco starter pitching well lately, as none of the last six to take the hill has given up more than three runs. Tim Lincecum allowed one over five innings of a 6-1 victory to open Monday's doubleheader against the Mets, then Madison Bumgarner limited New York to one run in seven to win the nightcap 7-2.
"It was a long day and a good day," Bumgarner said.
The Reds (7-9) will try to spoil Cain's start in their first game back home following a 10-game trip. After dropping five of seven in Washington and St. Louis, Cincinnati took two of three in Chicago despite making three errors in Sunday's 4-3 win.
"It's a good cap to our weekend," said closer Sean Marshall, who allowed a run in the ninth but held on for his third save. "Our team played hard under some tough conditions in Chicago. It's good to win a series and go home on the plane happy."
While Cain has been nothing short of spectacular lately, the beginning of Mat Latos' career in a Reds uniform has been a disaster. Latos didn't make it past the fifth inning in his first two starts, then gave up a career high-tying eight runs over 5 2-3 innings Wednesday in an 11-1 loss to the Cardinals.
Latos was 2-3 with a 2.64 ERA in nine starts versus San Francisco while with San Diego.
He'll have a challenge Tuesday trying to retire Pablo Sandoval. The Giants third baseman extended his hitting streak to 16 with hits in each game Monday, tying Willie Mays' franchise-record streak to begin a season from 1960.
"Willie Mays is one of the greatest," said Sandoval, who's a .410 lifetime hitter against the Reds - including 16 for his last 30. "Everything's going well."
San Francisco has lost five straight games at Cincinnati.
Updated April 24, 2012