Giants-Braves Preview

The San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves have combined for 10

runs in the first two games of their four-game series, and it’s

difficult to imagine anything but another pitchers’ duel Saturday

night.

San Francisco’s Matt Cain and Atlanta’s Tim Hudson will each be

looking to win a fourth consecutive decision as the right-handers

square off at Turner Field.

The Giants (63-47) and Braves (62-47) would qualify for the

playoffs if the season ended Friday, and this series could be

mistaken for low-scoring postseason baseball with each team

totaling 12 hits and claiming a 3-2 win.

After Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens outdueled San Francisco ace Tim

Lincecum on Thursday, the Giants bounced back with an 11-inning

victory Friday night.

San Francisco scored the tying run in the ninth and the go-ahead

run in the 11th without a hit in either inning, with three walks

and Pat Burrell’s sacrifice fly supplying the winning margin.

“It wasn’t pretty. We’ll take it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We

didn’t do much offensively and feel fortunate.”

The Giants moved within one game of first-place San Diego in the

NL West, and they lead Philadelphia and St. Louis by 1 1/2 games in

the wild-card chase.

Atlanta has seen its NL East lead slip to one game over the

Phillies, its smallest cushion since June 27.

“You got to play nine innings. We didn’t,” third baseman Chipper

Jones said. “We hit a guy and made two errors in the ninth. Walk

three in the 11th is a recipe for disaster.”

Some of the Braves’ biggest bats are struggling. Rookie Jason

Heyward is 3 for 29 with no RBIs in his last seven games, while

Troy Glaus is batting .125 since July 20.

It likely won’t get easier for either against Cain (9-8, 2.98

ERA).

Cain was 0-4 with a 7.45 ERA in his final five starts before the

All-Star break, but he’s held opponents to a .150 average while

going 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his last four outings.

He beat the Dodgers on Sunday, pitching 7 2-3 dominant innings

in a 2-0 win – his first victory in 15 career starts against the

Giants’ archrivals.

San Francisco may struggle again offensively if Hudson (12-5,

2.36) continues his current pace.

In the midst of an impressive bounce-back season after missing

most of 2009 following Tommy John surgery, Hudson has allowed a

total of two runs while winning three consecutive starts, moving

among the top five in the majors in ERA.

He wasn’t at his best Monday against the Mets but still managed

to complete six strong innings in a 4-1 victory.

“It starts with the starting pitcher,” Hudson said. “You have to

set the tone early.”

Hudson limited the Giants to three hits and two runs over seven

innings in San Francisco on April 9 in his first start of the

season, but the bullpen blew the lead in a 5-4, 13-inning defeat.

Cain hasn’t faced Atlanta since 2008, when he went 2-0 with a 1.32

ERA in two matchups.