SAN FRANCISCO Barry Zito fell short of his second shutout of the season and the Giants capitalized on some sloppy Atlanta defense to beat the Braves 5-2 in the first of four games between the 2010 National League Division Series opponents at AT&T Park.Starting pitching report Whenever Barry Zito starts his outing with a walk, a smattering of boos can be heard at AT&T Park because its a familiarly hopeless feeling. Zito did just that Thursday, but benefitted from some solid defense behind him before getting into a rhythm and cruising until back-to-back singles leading off the ninth forced him from the game.After Michael Bourn trotted to first thanks to four straight balls from Zito to open the game, the Braves looked poised to pounce for a first-inning run against Zito, who is 8-3 this season when holding the opposition scoreless in the opening frame. Hes 1-5 on the campaign when allowing a first-inning run. Zito bobbled Reed Johnsons comebacker to make a double-play impossible, but recovered to get the out at first, then watched as Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt combined on a great play behind him. Zito proceeded to walk Chipper Jones, who is making his final regular-season visit to AT&T Park, but struck out Freddie Freeman to escape unscathed.The second inning started even worse for Zito, as Dan Uggla and Brian McCann put together back-to-back singles. After both runners advanced on a groundout, Zito stabbed Tommy Hansons comebacker and caught Uggla off the third-base bag, where Sandoval received Zitos throw and applied the tag. Zito got Bourn to fly out to left to keep the Braves off the board again.Following the back-to-back singles in the second, Zito went on a roll. He retired 11 of his next 12 batters through the top of the fifth inning and 20 of his next 22 through the top of the eighth.Having thrown 108 pitches through eight innings, Zito came back out for the ninth to go for his second shutout of the season and sixth of his career. He fell short, however, allowing back-to-back singles to open the inning before giving way to Jeremy Affeldt.Zito allowed five hits in his eight-plus innings of work, which included five strikeouts, three walks, and 113 pitches, 68 of which were strikes. It was the third outing of the season in which Zito worked at least eight innings. He allowed no runs while on the mound in those three starts, though two of his runners came around to score on Thursday.Bullpen report
Bruce Bochy brought Jeremy Affeldt in to relieve Zito and promptly gave up a frozen rope double to Freddie Freeman as the Braves cut the Giants lead to 5-2. After Affeldt walked Dan Uggla to bring the tying run to the plate in Brian McCann, Bochy went with another lefty in Javier Lopez, who promptly struck out McCann looking.The closer-by-committee is in full effect, as Bochy turned to Sergio Romo for the final out. Original left-handed pinch-hitter David Ross was called back and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez went with Jason Heyward instead. Heyward grounded the second pitch of the at-bat to second base, but beat out the relay throw to avoid a game-ending double play. Romo stayed in to face another lefty in Juan Francisco, who grounded out to Pablo Sandoval at third to end the game.At the plate
Angel Pagan had seven hits in the sweep of the Dodgers, leading off every game with a hit. That streak lives after he singled to lead off the bottom of the first. He advanced to second on an off-target pickoff throw by Tommy Hanson, but was left stranded when Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence went down in order.Hector Sanchez broke a 10 at-bat hitless streak with a one-out double in the second inning, but like Pagan he was left stranded.Pagan set the table again in the third with a one-out walk, then stole second base. This time, however, he was not left stranded, thanks to a two-out single from Pablo Sandoval on a hanging breaking ball at his eyes. Sandoval drove the pitch the other way to left field and Pagan slid just ahead of Brian McCanns tag for the games first run.The Giants stranded two more baserunners in the fifth inning and were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position at that point, but broke the game wide open in the fifth.Pagan was the rally-starter once again, as he drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on Scutaros single. After an ugly at-bat from Sandoval resulting in a swinging strikeout, Pence placed a perfect bunt between first and second behind the pitchers mound to plate Pagan. First baseman Freddie Freeman made the inning turn from bad to worse for the Braves, as he booted Brandon Belts grounder and was charged with a run-scoring error. Sanchez, starting in place of the injured Buster Posey, followed with his second double of the game, down the first-base line past Freeman, to score Pence and Belt giving the Giants a 5-0 lead.The Giants were quiet with the bats the rest of the way, but that would be all that was necessary for Barry Zito, who expanded his team lead in sacrifices with his eighth on a bunt in the eighth inning.In field Pablo Sandoval helped Barry Zito work around a leadoff walk in the first inning with a sliding stop of Martin Prados sharp ground ball. After getting his glove on the ball, Sandoval threw low to first, where Brandon Belt scooped the one-hop throw. The play was eerily similar to one Sandoval and Belt teamed up for in the series finale in Los Angeles.Zito bailed himself out of a jam with a wise play on a comebacker from pitcher Tommy Hanson. With Dan Uggla at third and Brian McCann at first following back-to-back singles to open the frame, Zito stabbed Hansons ball and caught Uggla leaning by throwing back to Sandoval covering third.On the bases The threat of Angel Pagans speed led to an errant pick-off throw in the first. He was left stranded that inning, but came back after a one-out walk in the third to steal his 21st base of the season and came around to score the first run of the game.Brandon Belt followed up his fourth-inning single with his 10th steal of the season. Hes only been caught once so far.Attendance
The Giants announced their 146th consecutive sellout with a paid crowd of 41,645 fans. One of those fans was selected for the mid-inning bat-spin home run derby game and, before winning, went headfirst into a fence in a spell of dizziness.Up next The Giants continue their four-game series with the Braves in a Friday night game that will pit Ryan Vogelsong (10-7, 2.85 ERA) vs. Ben Sheets (4-3, 3.07 ERA). Vogelsongs only career start against Atlanta came earlier this season on July 18, when he allowed one run in six innings, but was left with a no decision in the Giants wild 9-4 extra-innings win.