Freeman’s homers not enough vs. Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ben Sheets was left to ponder

his pitch selection and question why he struggled to put away hitters

when everything felt so good coming out of his

hand.

Sheets lasted just 4 1-3 innings for his

shortest outing of the season in Atlanta’s 5-3 loss to the surging San

Francisco Giants on Friday night, allowing a double and go-ahead triple

to Angel Pagan for two of the leadoff man’s four

hits.

“The scary thing was a lot of them were located

pretty good,” Sheets said. “I can’t get it any better down and away.

Maybe wrong pitch, wrong selection. I don’t know. I hate the way I

pitched. … I hate the results. That’s all it is, it’s result-based. I

can give up line drives and get outs or throw everything down the middle

and love it.”

Pagan is providing so much punch at

the top of the batting order, the Giants hardly miss suspended All-Star

game MVP Melky Cabrera in the middle.

Pagan helped

back Ryan Vogelsong’s first victory in three starts as San Francisco won

its fifth straight.

“He’s really done great.

Obviously, he’s the catalyst,” reliever Javier Lopez said of Pagan.

“Everybody’s stepped up in Melky’s absence. It’s a new era every

night.”

Pablo Sandoval hit an RBI double and also

scored the tying run for the NL West-leading Giants on a wild pitch in

the third, and Buster Posey doubled in a run after missing the previous

two games with tightness in his right

hamstring.

Freddie Freeman hit two solo home runs for

his third career multihomer game and Jason Heyward also connected for

the Braves, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Freeman hit his

16th and 17th homers of the year. He connected twice at Arizona on April

19.

“Pagan caused a wreck out there,” Freeman said.

“We couldn’t get him off the bases. He really changed the game for

them.”

Vogelsong (11-7) won despite allowing just his

11th, 12th and 13th homers of the year — his most since surrendering

three homers to the Cubs on April 20, 2004, while with

Pittsburgh.

The right-hander and surprise 2011

All-Star, who dropped out of the NL ERA lead with his recent struggles,

ended two-start skid in which he didn’t make it past three innings

either outing, a 14-2 home loss to the Nationals on Aug. 13 in which he

went 2 2-3 innings and then a 7-1 defeat last Sunday at San Diego after

being knocked out after three innings.

He picked up a

couple of things off video to get better direction to the plate with

his pitches and was encouraged by his progress despite three

homers.

“They’re both strong guys and if they barrel

it, it’s going to go a long way,” he said. “I’m just glad they were all

solo shots.”

San Francisco (71-55) moved a

season-best 16 games over .500, one shy of matching the club’s best mark

of 17-over last year.

The Giants began the night

with a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division —

their largest since July 26 — and they haven’t held a four-game cushion

since leading Arizona on July 29, 2011.

Pagan

finished 4 for 5 and is batting .450 (18 for 40) over his last nine

games since the Giants lost Cabrera to a 50-game suspension for

testosterone Aug. 15.

After Freeman hit his 15th home

run leading off the second, Vogelsong retired the next 10 Braves in

order.

“We got three runs on three solo home runs,”

manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We just couldn’t get the elusive single

with people on base or a two-out single.”

Marco

Scutaro had an RBI single for the Giants, who handed Sheets (4-4) his

third loss in as many starts and fourth in five since a three-start

winning streak. He was knocked out after a season-low 4 1-3 innings,

tagged for four runs and nine hits with three walks and two

strikeouts.

Sheets has allowed 14 earned runs over

his last 16 1-3 innings.

Sheets’ third-inning wild

pitch skipped off catcher Brian McCann’s chest protector toward the

first-base dugout. McCann retrieved the ball and threw to Sheets

covering home, but Sandoval had already scored and the pitcher dropped

the ball.

Sheets couldn’t hold an early 2-0 lead

after Heyward’s first-inning home run and then Freeman’s first clout of

the game leading off the second.

Freeman and Heyward

were the lone bright spots for the struggling Braves offense a night

after they went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position — and were

just 17 for 98 over their previous 12 games for the second-worst mark in

the majors during that span.

“It’s getting

frustrating, honestly,” Freeman said. “We’re a winning team and we’re

just not winning right

now.”

Notes: Vogelsong faced the

Braves for only the third time in his career, and second as a starter.

He had a no-decision at Turner Field on July 18 despite allowing only

one run and four hits in six innings before the Giants won 9-4 in 11

innings. … LHP Madison Bumgarner goes for his 15th victory Saturday

against fellow lefty Mike Minor (6-10) while seeking his first career

win vs. Atlanta after an 0-2 record in his first three appearances.