Giants-Braves Preview

Whichever team wins Sunday’s finale between the Atlanta Braves

and San Francisco Giants will capture the season series, but the

clubs may have more important meetings ahead.

The potential postseason foes are set to complete a tight

four-game set at Turner Field, with San Francisco’s Jonathan

Sanchez and Atlanta’s Derek Lowe looking to continue the trend of

strong starting pitching.

Neither team has scored more than three runs in any of the first

three games in Atlanta, with the clubs trading 3-2 victories before

the Braves won 3-0 on Saturday night.

“It’s funny,” Braves starter Tim Hudson said. “Chipper (Jones)

told me before the game, ‘You’re going to have three runs to play

with. Make it last.'”

Atlanta (63-47) extended its NL East lead to two games over

Philadelphia, improving its team ERA to 1.55 in seven August games.

In this series, Braves starters have allowed three runs and 13 hits

in 21 innings.

If the season ended Saturday, Atlanta would face San Francisco

(63-48) in an NL division series. While trailing San Diego by one

game in the NL West, the Giants remain 1 1/2 games ahead of St.

Louis and Philadelphia in the wild-card chase.

San Francisco’s pitching, which ranks second in the majors with

a 3.39 ERA, has kept the team in this series, but the Giants’ bats

have been slumping.

Hudson and Billy Wagner limited San Francisco to three hits

Saturday, and the Giants have totaled six runs – with no homers –

while losing three of four. The home run drought matches the club’s

longest of the season.

That may bode well for Lowe (10-9, 4.44 ERA) as the Giants face

a second straight sinkerballer. Both Hudson and Lowe rank among the

top five in the majors in ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.

Lowe also has a strong track record against San Francisco, which

hasn’t beaten him since he was with the Dodgers on April 24, 2007.

In his last seven starts against the Giants, he’s 3-0 with a 2.08

ERA.

The right-hander walked a career-high seven in San Francisco on

April 10 but allowed one run in six innings of a 7-2 victory.

Sanchez (8-6, 3.38) is well accustomed to working around walks.

The left-hander has more walks per nine innings (4.57) than any

other major league pitcher, but four walks resulted in no damage in

six-plus innings of a 10-0 win Tuesday at Colorado.

During that start, Sanchez struck out seven consecutive batters

at one point, tying the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Juan

Marichal on Sept. 6, 1964.

“I just tried to throw strikes and focus on getting ahead of

hitters,” Sanchez told the Giants’ official website. “They were

swinging after the first inning. They were swinging at pitches off

the plate, in the dirt. I was getting ahead the whole time, so they

had to swing.”

Good control may be especially important against the Braves,

whose 446 walks rank second in the majors behind Tampa Bay.

Sanchez lasted just 4 1-3 innings against Atlanta on April 9,

allowing three runs and seven hits, but the Giants came back to win

5-4 in 13 innings.

Neither team has won back-to-back games in the season series,

which stands at 3-3 with only Sunday’s matchup remaining.