Braves-Giants Preview

While he’s endured his share of struggles in recent seasons, there’s something about facing the Atlanta Braves that seems to bring out the best in Tim Lincecum.

In a matchup between two of baseball’s top pitching staffs, Lincecum will try to beat the visiting Braves for the second time this month as the Giants go for a fourth straight win in the season series Monday night.

Lincecum (2-2, 5.55 ERA) posted a 2.98 ERA while going 69-41 in regular-season starts from 2007-11, but he hasn’t had the same success at nine games under .500 with a 4.83 ERA over the past three seasons.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner, however, has continued to pitch well when he’s faced the NL East-best Braves (21-15).

Lincecum has gone 9-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 15 career starts against them – including a shutout in the 2010 NL division series – and has a 2.03 ERA in the last five. He’s been particularly tough versus Atlanta at home, going 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA.

On May 2, the right-hander gave up one run over six innings in a series-opening 2-1 win in Atlanta. The NL West-leading Giants (24-14), who rank among baseball’s leaders with a 3.12 ERA, allowed a total of three runs in that three-game sweep.

Lincecum couldn’t build on his performance Wednesday when he allowed four runs and eight hits over four innings in a 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh.

”I’m the type of guy who’s going to have to get guys to chase pitches but I can’t do that when I’m leaving balls up in the strike zone that are so hittable," said Lincecum, who is allowing opponents to hit a career-high .329.

Now he’ll try to bounce back in the opener of this three-game set with the Braves, who have averaged 2.1 runs while hitting .210 over their last 13 contests.

Atlanta, though, is coming off its highest run total since April 25 in Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the visiting Chicago Cubs. The victory capped a three-game sweep, giving the Braves four wins in five games following a seven-game losing streak.

Chris Johnson had two hits, leaving him 10 for 19 over his last five contests. Evan Gattis homered and Jason Heyward went deep for the first time since April 9.

”It felt like it was longer than that,” said Heyward, who had two hits off Lincecum at Turner Field.

The Braves could get a boost from the return of Justin Upton, who was held out after he sustained a bruised lower back muscle when he was hit by a pitch Saturday. Upton, however, is 2 for 23 with nine strikeouts versus Lincecum since 2011.

Gavin Floyd (0-0, 1.29) will try to add to an Atlanta pitching staff that owns a major league-best 2.64 ERA after he surrendered one run over seven innings in his 2014 debut Tuesday, a 2-1 home win over St. Louis.

The right-hander, who opened the season on the disabled list following Tommy John surgery, hasn’t faced the Giants since 2008 with the Chicago White Sox.

San Francisco has totaled 19 runs and hit .215 over its last six games, but took three of four at Dodger Stadium with Sunday’s 7-4, 10-inning victory. Pablo Sandoval had three hits and two RBIs and Brandon Hicks hit his seventh homer for the Giants, who have won eight of 10 at AT&T Park.

Buster Posey is batting .426 with 16 RBIs and 12 extra-base hits in his last 16 games against the Braves.