Madison Bumgarner hasn't fared particularly well in his first three chances against some of the NL's best arms. The San Francisco Giants hope the fourth goes better to end their starting pitching funk.
Bumgarner gets another marquee matchup Sunday against Noah Syndergaard, who will try to lift the New York Mets to a ninth straight win and sweep of the visiting Giants.
New York (15-7) has put a 2-5 start in the rearview mirror with its first eight-game winning streak since rattling off 11 in a row last April. The last two to open this series came at the expense of veteran starters for San Francisco (12-13).
The Mets knocked Jake Peavy out in the third during Friday's 13-1 win with a team record 12-run inning, and they tagged Matt Cain for four runs in the first two of Saturday's 6-5 victory - their fifth in the last six of this series.
Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores homered Saturday, and Conforto tied Joe Christopher's 1964 team record with a double in his sixth straight game.
The Mets have won six in a row at Citi Field.
"It just seems relentless," said Conforto, who is hitting .365.
There might be some agreement on that from the Giants, whose starters have coughed up 17 runs the last three games, raising their ERA to 4.81.
Meanwhile, Mets starters haven't allowed an earned run in 12 innings of this series and have given up just 17 over the last dozen games to lower their ERA to 2.81.
Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64 ERA) can only control one side of that equation when he matches up against yet another big arm, adding Syndergaard to a list that includes Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw twice through his first five starts.
The 2014 World Series MVP holds only a 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in those matchups and San Francisco dropped all three consecutively.
However, the Giants avoided their first four-game skid with Bumgarner on the mound with Monday's 5-4 win over San Diego. The left-hander held the Padres to six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings while striking out a season-high nine.
Working in Bumgarner's favor are his career numbers against the Mets, though he didn't face them in 2015. He held them to four runs over 29 innings spanning four starts the previous three seasons. The lefty struck out 29 in the last three meetings, capped by a 10-strikeout two-hitter in August 2014 that moved his ERA at Citi Field to 0.78.
Syndergaard's only matchup against San Francisco as a rookie in 2015 was noteworthy only because of Chris Heston's no-hitter on the other side. Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69) was shelled for 10 hits and four runs in six innings while striking out a career-low two.
Buster Posey and Matt Duffy each went 2 for 3 against him, with Duffy launching a solo home run off the big right-hander.
San Francisco's lineup has been up and down, plating eight or more runs five times but two or fewer on eight occasions. The Giants loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth Saturday but settled for a pair of deep sacrifice flies.
Jeurys Familia sealed his eighth save in as many chances in front of a Citi Field regular-season record crowd of 44,466. It was San Francisco's third straight road loss and sixth in seven games.
"That's a tough one for the guys, because they put up quite an effort there to get back in it and try to win that ballgame," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Syndergaard has not allowed a home run in 26 2/3 innings while striking out 38, matching Pedro Martinez's 2005 mark for most by a Mets pitcher in his first four starts.