Tim Lincecum had the kind of year in 2012 that he’d probably like to forget, but the back-to-back, 2008-2009 Cy Young winner took the mound against the Atlanta Braves in the final game of the four game series, and pitched like The Freak of old. Lincecum went for seven scoreless innings, striking out seven Braves batters, and cementing a series win for the San Francisco Giants who took three of the four games at AT&T park in the City by the Bay.
The Atlanta Braves played extremely well in game 1 of the series, but in games 2-4 did not look at all like a team that is 21-16 and setting in first place atop the NL East. Having lost three in a row, and going 4-6 in their last ten games, the ups and downs continue for the Braves who have had moments of sizzling run production, and moments of baffling errors, inability to put runners on, and lackluster pitching.
Julio Teheran took the mound in game 1, pitched a solid seven innings, and while he gave up seven hits to a team that is well-known for their hit production, Teheran only gave up 3 runs (all earned) in his 10th major league start. Add to his performance a home run by Brian McCann, triples by both Jordan Schafer and Justin Upton, and RBIs by Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, and BJ Upton, and the Braves put the proverbial hurtin’ on Ryan Vogelsong. The Braves were hitting well, and stranded 10 additional base runners in their 6-3 win to take game 1. Craig Kimbrel also came in for the close, and got the 100th save of his career, a milestone for Kimbrel as he became the second-youngest pitcher behind Francisco Rodriguez to reach 100 saves.
From game 2 on, things began to fall apart for the Braves. Tim Hudson took the mound for game 2, and confidence was high for the Braves considering that the Giants had not beaten Tim Hudson since April 8, 2006. The Giants had other ideas however, producing a six run 4th inning that sat Tim Hudson on the bench, and brought in David Carpenter, Cory Gearin, and Anthony Varvaro in relief. The Braves did score two runs in the fifth inning, but Carpenter wasn’t able to limit the damage as he gave up two more runs to the Giants in the sixth inning. Gearin and Varvaro held the Giants scoreless through the rest of the game, but Matt Cain was flawless, going eight innings, striking out 7, and only allowing 2 runs on 3 hits for the 8-2 victory.
If Matt Cain was flawless in game 2, then Madison Bumgarner was even better in game 3. Bumgarner struck out 11, and held the Braves to just 1 run on 4 hits in seven innings for the Giants. By contrast, Paul Maholm, who has pitched well for Atlanta this year, was popped for 6 runs on 8 hits, and was limited to just 4.1 innings of work as the Braves were crushed by the Giants 10-1 in the third game of the series. The Braves brought in five different pitchers in relief after Maholm left the game, but Anthony Varvaro gave up 3 runs and Jordan Walden 1 run in the 8th inning to add to the damage.
The Braves hoped for a least a split as they played game 4 on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t to be as the Giants again out-played the Braves for a 5-1 victory, and a series win. As mentioned earlier, despite his struggle last year, Tim Lincecum looked like the two-time Cy Young winner, and a pitcher we know affectionately as The Freak, as he went seven innings, allowing no runs on only 2 hits. Kris Medlen went just 5.1 innings for the Braves, but gave up 5 runs on 8 hits to give the Giants the 5-1 win.
You could easily argue the Braves have not played that poorly this year. They will need to try and regroup, and put this series out of mind as they head to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks for a three game road series. There, the Braves will face two former Braves in Eric Hinske and Martin Prado, and then they will get a much needed day off on Thursday. Game 1 of the series against the Diamondbacks begins Monday evening at 9:40 PM EST.