The potential postseason foes are set to complete a tight four-game set at Turner Field, with San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez(notes) and Atlanta’s Derek Lowe(notes) 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.
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(notes) 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.