Continuing their April barrage of home runs in May, the San Francisco Giants hammered out two more tonight, one a lead-off blast by Angel Pagan and the other an opposite field shot by Michael Morse, and went on to silence the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, Friday night, beginning their killer road trip in the best manner possible. Coupled with the Dodgers’ loss to the Marlins, the Giants regained a one-and-a-half game lead over them and maintained a one-game margin over the Rockies.
Tim Lincecum started for the San Francisco Giants and pitched six strong innings, giving up one run on six hits, all singles, with three walks and four strikeouts. He was consistently ahead on hitters, and though he allowed two base runners in four of his six innings, he managed to slam the door repeatedly, not only on the scoring, but on the annoying chanting by the Braves’ fans. Coming into the game, Lincecum had only allowed six walks, so the three tonight were a little out of the norm for this season, but only one ended up hurting him.
Mike Minor started for the Braves and pitched well except for those two long balls by Pagan and Morse. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four in his first start of the season, after experiencing shoulder issues during spring training. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Braves elected to pinch-hit for him with Ryan Doumit flying out to end the threat.
Ian Thomas came on to pitch the top of the seventh and immediately walked the two first batters he faced, before Ehire Adrianza sacrificed them to second and third. Anthony Varvaro then replaced Thomas and got out of the inning by striking out both Pagan and Hunter Pence.
Jeremy Affeldt entered the game in the bottom of the seventh and promptly gave up a lead-off single to Jason Heyward, his third hit of the game. He followed that up with back-to-back strikeouts of B.J. Upton and Freedie Freeman and then handed the ball to Santiago Casilla, who finally got Chris Johnson to strike out. Casilla went on to pitch a perfect eighth, before Sergio Romo came on to close it out. He got Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward quickly on ground ball outs, before B.J. Upton singled, stole second and then watched as Freddie Freeman walked. This set the stage for lots of drama, lots of [sound turned down] chanting and a called third strike on Justin Upton, giving Romo his eighth save in eight chances.
Buster Posey started another game at first and Hector was in the squat again tonight, and showed he was up to the task in the bottom of the seventh when Casilla kept throwing balls into the dirt and he kept blocking them. At one point, Casilla got ahead 0-2 on Justin Upton and then threw four consecutive low balls, walking him and ending up striking out Chris Johnson. Sanchez did an excellent job of blocking those low pitches.
Tonight was vintage National League ball, with pitching dominating and the Giants coming out on top. This marked the fourth straight loss by the Braves, who had just dropped a three-game series to the Marlins, but gave the Giants their seventh victory in their last eight games. The win is crucial because of the importance of this road trip.
The Giants play three of last season’s playoff teams on this journey, and to be able to take the first game is huge. They need to carry that momentum into tomorrow night’s game and have Ryan Vogelsong continue the domination that he displayed his last trip out against the Tribe. That way the bottom of the rotation can turn it over to the ace, Madison Bumgarner, and let him close it out. That’s the way it’s supposed to work-says so in the manual: page four, third paragraph, sub-section C, in The Giants’ Guide to the Next world Series.