Atlanta Braves

Brandon Crawford hits two HRs, Giants sweep Braves in Atlanta for the first time since 1988


The San Francisco Giants keep hitting home runs and allowing one run per game on this road trip, and it seems to be working for them. Today Brandon Crawford must have figured, “All the cool kids are hitting homers,” as he drilled two in the same game for the first time in his career. Toss in some more fantastic pitching, and the Giants completed a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves with a 4-1 win that was by far the least stressful of the series.

Were the games secretly moved to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium? Probably not, since it was demolished in 1997. But the Giants made Turner Field look like the old launching pad, clubbing seven dingers in Atlanta. They’ve now homered in their last 11 games, which the Giants say is their longest streak since they did it in 14 consecutive games back in 2002. Those Giants, led by Barry Bonds (46) and Jeff Kent (37), hit 198 homers that year.

The 2014 Giants (20-11, 10-6 on the road) have 41 home runs as a team, which puts them on pace for 214. That’s why their winning percentage keeps climbing, despite a lot of offensive failings.

  • Their team batting average is .238.
  • They’re hitting .230 with RISP (they went 0-for-10 today).
  • Their on-base percentage coming into this game was .304 (10th in the NL).
  • Pablo Sandoval (0-for-3, two strikeouts) continues to struggle (.170/.254/.283).
  • The bench is hitting .146.

It helps that their pitching staff seems to be trending more toward what we saw from the 2009-12 staffs than the overall blech that surprised everyone last year.

Madison Bumgarner struck out nine in six innings while allowing no earned runs. He might not have given up a run at all if he hadn’t made a throwing error on Braves starter Alex Wood’s bunt that sent Ramiro Pena to third, allowing Jason Heyward to drive Pena in with a sacrifice fly.

Bruce Bochy made a bit of a surprising move taking Bumgarner out after six innings and just 95 pitches. In the sixth, B.J. Upton walked and stole second to lead things off, and Freddie Freeman hit a deep fly ball to Angel Pagan that sent Upton to third. Bumgarner then got Justin Upton to hit an infield popup to Brandon Belt before blowing Evan Gattis away with a 92-mph fastball to end the inning.

Bochy could be conserving Bumgarner. Also, the Giants were only leading 2-1 at the time. But maybe Bochy just couldn’t wait to get into that bullpen, sort of like how I am when my wife makes deviled eggs for family get-togethers during the holidays. It’s impossible for me to wait until we get to my aunt’s house before I at least sample what she’s made (“sample” generally equals two deviled eggs), and Bochy (a known bullpen connoisseur) figured there was no point in keeping Juan Gutierrez behind the outfield wall when he hadn’t pitched in six days.

Gutierrez allowed a leadoff single to Chris Johnson, but ended the inning with a Dan Uggla strikeout and two infield popups. Javier Lopez and Jean Machi combined to handle the eighth, and Santiago Casilla earned his first save of the season by inducing three consecutive groundouts.

Extra BASGs

— This was the Giants’ first sweep in Atlanta since June 27, 28 and 29 … in 1988. The Braves finished 54-106 that year.

— Only two Giants homered in that series: Kevin Mitchell hit his eighth of the year and Will Clark his his 19th.

— There is no worse sound in sports than the Tomahawk Chop song/chant in Atlanta. Yes, even worse than “Seven Nation Army” at Ravens or Heat games. Yes, even worse than Joe Buck and Tim McCarver calling a Giants-Cardinals postseason game. While NFL writers refuse to put the name of Washington’s team in print, the chop remains. The double-standard is baffling.

— The Giants managed to score a run without homering (Buster Posey’s RBI groundout in the first inning that drove in Hunter Pence), and Crawford’s second home run was the team’s first with anyone on base since Brandon Hicks hit a three-run shot last Sunday against the Indians.

— I keep mentioning the bullpen numbers because they boggle the mind. Their collective ERA is 1.77 with a 0.93 WHIP.

— 25% of the fly balls Sandoval had hit this season have been caught in the infield. That’s top-five in the majors in a category where ranking highly isn’t optimal, and more than double Sandoval’s career rate of 11.6%.

— The Giants have won five in a row and nine of their last 10. They won five consecutive games or more once last season (a six-game streak when they swept the D-Backs and Dodgers from 4/29 – 5/5), and it probably won’t surprise anyone reading this to find out that they didn’t win nine out of 10 at any point in 2013.

— The Giants are 1.5 games ahead of the Rockies (who are down 4-0 to the Mets in the sixth as I’m publishing this), and 2.5 games up on the Dodgers, who lost to the Marlins in a game where Yasiel Puig collided with the outfield wall (the wall remains undefeated).

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