Braves-Giants Preview

Their NL West rivals just made a major move. The San Francisco

Giants’ best counter now would be to get back into the win

column.

Tim Lincecum will try to avoid his second three-start home

losing streak this season Sunday night when the division-leading

Giants and Atlanta Braves conclude their season series.

While the biggest headline made by the Giants (71-56) recently

has been Melky Cabrera’s 50-game drug suspension – and subsequent

failed cover-up – the Los Angeles Dodgers made a huge splash

Saturday by acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford

and Nick Punto in a blockbuster deal with Boston that could have

major implications on the division race.

The Giants have a two-game lead in the West after losing to

Atlanta 7-3 on Saturday before Gonzalez homered in helping the

Dodgers beat the Miami Marlins 8-2 later that night.

“I don’t think you react to a move another club makes – you do

what’s right for your club,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said

prior to his team’s five-game winning streak ending.

In years past, giving the ball to Lincecum (7-13, 5.30 ERA)

would be the right move for the Giants, but this has been a trying

season for the two-time Cy Young Award winner. The right-hander won

his third consecutive road start Tuesday by throwing 5 2-3 strong

innings in a 4-1 victory over the Dodgers, but he has a 5.73 ERA

while losing both of his August starts at AT&T Park.

“You can’t change anything that happened. You can just make

better pitches now,” Lincecum said of finishing the season strong.

“Just moving forward one batter at a time. I know it’s cliched, but

when I break it down small like that it relieves pressure on

me.”

Facing the Braves (72-55) might not be the best relief for

Lincecum, who has lost his last three starts in this matchup.

While the Giants try to keep a cushion atop the West, Atlanta

has a 2 1/2-game advantage over St. Louis for the first wild-card

spot.

Sunday’s starter Tim Hudson (12-4, 3.69 ERA) would like to help

the Braves stay in that spot as he seeks a seventh straight win,

but he needs to come out stronger. Of the 59 runs he’s allowed, 20

have come in the first inning after he surrendered four in the

opening frame of Monday’s 5-4, 13-inning loss at NL East-leading

Washington.

The Braves had won the right-hander’s previous eight starts.

Hudson improved to 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his last eight starts

in this matchup after going 7 1-3 innings in a 3-2 home win over

the Giants on July 19.

Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who is retiring after the

season, is expected to be in the lineup after getting Saturday off.

It will be his final career game versus San Francisco.

The Giants probably wish right fielder Jason Heyward was making

his last visit after he homered for the second straight game

Saturday – a three-run shot. Heyward is batting .394 (13 for 33)

with five homers and 11 RBIs in nine games at San Francisco.

“The crowd always keeps you on your toes here and it’s a good

environment to play in,” Heyward said. “They’re always here, it’s

a good team and they have good pitching, so you have to focus every

at-bat.”

He’s 3 for 9 with a double off Lincecum.

Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, who had his eight-game

hitting streak snapped Saturday, is 11 for 31 with a homer against

Hudson.