After arriving in San Francisco coming off of a series win in Cincinnati, optimism was high for the Braves to make this long, 10-game road trip a successful one. Let’s take a look at what went down once they touched down in the Bay Area.
Thursday, May 9th – Win (6-3)
Welcome back, Brian McCann. Yes, McCann actually arrived during the Cincinnati, but this was the breakout party for the Braves catcher. McCann smacked 3 hits including a 2nd-inning, 2-run home run off of Ryan Vogelsong that started the scoring for Atlanta. It was fantastic to see McCann swinging the bat with authority, and he was the star of the night. The Braves also received 7 innings of solid pitching from Julio Teheran, who allowed 3 runs on 7 hits, and 2 shut-down innings from the O’Flaherty/Kimbrel duo at the back-end. In the end, it was a balanced (every Atlanta regular got at least one hit), solid effort that kicked the series off with a positive note.
Friday, May 10th – Loss (8-2)
Tim Hudson had not lost to the Giants in seven years. In retrospect, it was probably a terrible sign for the series to see Hudson go down, and he certainly did not have a positive day at the office. The Braves ace lasted just 3.2 innings on the night, allowing 8 hits and 6 earned runs, and by the time he exited the game, the deficit was too large to overcome. Hudson actually didn’t pitch particularly poorly, as he was the victim of several “seeing-eye” hits, but his pitching style does lend itself to this type of game, and it was one of those nights. Offensively, Atlanta was only able to garner 3 hits off of Matt Cain, and despite another home run from McCann in the sixth, the offense never got things going in a big way. Cain had struggled mightily before Friday night (entering the night with a 5.00+ ERA), but the old Cain returned, and it was lights-out for Atlanta.
Saturday, May 11th – Loss (10-1)
Through 4.5 innings, the Braves were competitive on Saturday afternoon. It was 2-1 when the Giants picked up the bats in the Bottom of the 5th… and then the wheels came off. Paul Maholm surrendered 4 runs in the 5th, giving San Francisco a 6-1 lead, and they never looked back from there. It was Maholm’s 2nd-worst start of the season (4.1 IP, 8 hits, 6 ER) and the bullpen (led by Anthony Varvaro‘s 3 earned runs) wasn’t much better. Offensively, it was the second straight lackluster night for the lineup, and outside of a 2-for-4 night from Evan Gattis, the bats were mostly silent. Madison Bumgarner was in complete command for San Francisco throughout the day, striking out 11 Braves through 7 innings, and this was a simple instance of the best player on the field playing for the opposition.
Sunday, May 12th – Loss (5-1)
In the finale, the bleeding was slow, but still just as painful, during the 5-1 loss. San Francisco belted three home runs off of Kris Medlen, and with a 5-0 lead after 5 innings, the Giants cruised to their 3rd straight win over the hometown team. Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, and Pablo Sandoval hit the three solo shots for the Giants, and while those were the only 3 earned runs that crossed the plate against Medlen, he allowed 5 runs overall through just 5.1 innings. The home run ball has plagued Medlen all season (allowing 7 in 49 innings), but his flyball rate is pretty similar through the small sample size this season, and as a result, there should be a leveling off in his gopherball output. For the third straight game (sensing a trend here?), the bats scuffled mightily against a Giants stud pitcher. Tim Lincecum had his best performance of the entire season, tossing 7 innings of 2-hit ball and striking out 7 Braves. Only Jordan Schafer and Ramiro Pena were able to scratch against “The Freak” and both of their hits were simple singles. Overall, it was the most grinding of the three losses, but that didn’t make things any more pleasurable.
In the grand scheme of a 162-game MLB season, losing 3 of 4 games to the defending champions isn’t a terrible black mark. With that said, three consecutive blowouts against a team that is considered to be a main “competitor” to the Braves isn’t a positive result. It will be crucial to get the bats going as the team heads for 3 games in Arizona, but the pitching will also go from the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park to the batter-friendly park in Arizona. Stay tuned.