When the Braves opened up their four game set with the defending World Series Champion Giants, all the talk was about the talented arms the Giants possessed.
But after Atlanta took three of four from their closest competition in the NL Wild Card, it seems as though the Braves have shown that they can now pitch with the best in the NL.. with some exceptions.
Monday’s opener was just a preview of the things to come, as the Braves came in four games up on San Francisco.
While Tim Hudson allowed 4 runs, two of which were earned, over 8 innings, Cristian Martinez held the Giants off long enough for the Braves to, surprisingly, mount a comeback against Giants closer Brian Wilson.
After taking a 2-0 lead, the Giants scored four unanswered runs, including the fourth run in the 8th inning. But there was something about this night that didn’t feel like it was going to end early.
The Braves put two runners on before watching both of them advance into scoring position before Wilson loaded the bases. A Martin Prado single scored a run, bringing the Braves one run closer to knotting the ballgame at 4. Another patient at bat from Brian McCann loaded the bases before things got really interesting after Wilson struck out Dan Uggla swinging.
It looks as though the hot streak Uggla saw for those 33 games may have seen better days.
But rookie Freddie Freeman got the job done, showing the kind of poise that has made him one of the top candidates for National League Rookie of the Year by singling off Wilson, driving in the tying and winning runs and ending the first game of what was previewed to be a very interesting series. The Braves won, 5-4.
Tuesday’s contest saw Randall Delgado throw 6 no-hit innings before giving up a homer to lead off the 7th to Cody Ross that tied the game. The Braves took the lead in the 3rd after Michael Bourn’s single scored Jose Constanza, but Bourn was caught in a pickle to end the inning.
But there was no late inning storm for either team offensively, as both teams nibbled to get close to the plate. The Braves threatened in the 10th with runners on first and third with Alex Gonzalez up with two outs, but Gonzo grounded into an inning-ending double play, slamming his helmet to the ground in frustration.
The bullpen, beginning with Eric O’Flaherty, middling with Jonny Venters and closing with Craig Kimbrel, did not disappoint, but it required a little more out of the Braves ‘pen to keep the Giants at bay.
Arodys Vizcaino locked down the 10th and 11th as needed, proving to be a viable call-up so close to the time rosters expand at the beginning of September.
After Brooks Conrad led off the 11th with a fly ball bounced just inside the foul line down the right field corner and bounced up into the seats for a double, Martin Prado came up, and with chants of “Let’s Go Prado!” throughout Turner Field, Prado produced with a game winning single through the right side, ending another duel of arms, as the Braves saw the back end of their bullpen all lock down the 7th, 8th and 9th for the 2-1 win.
Wednesday’s game did not look good for the Braves from the outset.
After the Giants got on the board early with a run in the first, the Braves came looked to be poised to break the game open with the bases loaded, but only produced one run via a Chipper Jones walk.
The Giants took a 7-1 lead, thanks in part to a four-run fourth off Jair Jurrjens, before the Braves began mounting a comeback that fell two runs too short.
Prado and Jason Heyward each drove in runs, as Prado brought two around with his two-out double, but McCann’s swinging strikeout ended the Braves threat, giving the Giants their first win against the Braves all season.
Thursday’s finale pitted two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum against Mike Minor, who was making just the 16th start of his career, compared to the 147 started by Lincecum.
Both pitchers dueled, shutting down the opposing lineups before Chipper led the 5th off with a solo shot to right, giving Minor and the Braves the lone run they needed to win the game.
Minor was followed up by the trio of O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel for the second night in a row, and the three heads of the Braves bullpen performed as they have all season, shutting the Giants down while allowing just one hit. Kimbrel locked down the 9th for his 37th save, three short of the rookie record set by former Brave prospect Neftali Feliz, now with the Texas Rangers.
After taking three of four against the Giants to go 4-3 on the homestand, the Braves now welcome the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks to Turner Field for a three-game set.