Kruk & Kuip: 'You knew the Braves were going to come on strong'
ATLANTA – The Giants have played eight games on this road trip. Here is what their Nos. 1-3 hitters have combined to produce:
A .394 average, a .456 on-base percentage, 20 runs, 22 RBIs – and their 39 hits include 14 doubles and a pair of home runs.
Oh … and other than having Marco Scutaro around for a handful of those games before a pitch turned his pinky into a fishhook, those 1-2-3 hitters are completely different from the group that began the season.
It doesn’t include Pablo Sandoval (strained foot) or Angel Pagan (hamstring), who are on the disabled list. It does include Buster Posey, who moved from cleanup to No.3 and won’t be moving back anytime soon.
It also includes a rotating cast – Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco in the leadoff spot, Tony Abreu and Brandon Crawford hitting second, and so on.
Has cleanup man Hunter Pence noticed? Well of course, he has.
“I feel we battle at-bats,” he said. “We find ways to put pressure on the pitcher.”
Those pitchers haven’t been the dregs of the league. Francisco Liriano had a 1.75 ERA when the Giants ran into him in Pittsburgh. The Braves’ Mike Minor hadn’t allowed three earned runs in a start since the beginning of May.
And Pence is finding himself in a lot more RBI situations – which is when he’s usually at his best. He turned an 0-2 count into a sacrifice fly Saturday night, just one more example of how he finds a way to put the ball in play and do something productive with runners in scoring position.
How does he approach those situations?
“Battle mode, so to speak,” he said. “I guess, if you could call that an approach … Get down low and choke up, and try to trust my hands.”
We’re beginning to see why the Giants were so incredibly patient with Tony Abreu. He’s a talented player, no question.
He scored from first base on a double Friday night and looked to be running well on his knee when he sprinted home on Pence’s sacrifice fly, barely sliding before the ball arrived. As for his bat? Well, he had three hits, including two doubles, and one of those came on a 97 mph fastball from Craig Kimbrel.
Even when the Giants have Sandoval and Scutaro back on the infield, Abreu’s switch-hitting bat looks to be a weapon off the bench.
The Braves lead the NL in strikeouts. Chad Gaudin did not strike out a batter in his five innings.
[Replay: Braves 6, Giants 5]
That tells you what you needed to know about Gaudin’s stuff and location in his third spot start. More than anything, that’s why Bruce Bochy should’ve lifted him for a pinch hitter with a runner on third base and two outs in the sixth.
It’s hard to say that decision cost the Giants the game. But it certainly contributed to it, since the Braves went double-homer on Gaudin to begin the sixth.
Gaudin threw a season-high 86 pitches after going 84 and 79 in his first two starts. He said he’s capable of going 100. But I’d imagine Bochy won’t forget what happened when he tried to squeeze another inning out of Gaudin on Saturday.
Second-round pick Ryder Jones will get $880,000 to turn down Stanford and begin his pro career, Baseball America reported.
One other minor league note: Announcer Joe Ritzo reports that top prospect Kyle Crick is almost ready to return to the Single-A San Jose rotation. He's been out since mid-April with a strained oblique.
This isn’t Freddie Freeman’s first walk-off winner against the Giants. He did it to Brian Wilson in 2011, too.
That night was when it became obvious that was seriously wrong with Wilson’s elbow. He went on the DL and appeared in just four more games as a Giant: two at the end of that year, and two at the start of 2012.