Giants-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Trying for their first three-game sweep in Atlanta in 26 years, the San Francisco Giants give the ball to their Opening Day starter.

Madison Bumgarner, however, isn't really resembling a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Facing a Braves team that has lost five in a row, Bumgarner tries to avoid losing four straight starts for the first time in his career Sunday.

The Giants (19-11) have won the first two in this series with all five of their runs coming on solo homers. After Angel Pagan and Michael Morse went deep in Friday's 2-1 win, Morse, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt all connected in Saturday's 3-1 victory.

Morse is batting .414 with five homers and 11 RBIs in the last nine games with the Giants winning eight.

Posey is hitting .385 with three homers in the last seven for San Francisco, which is second in the NL with 39 home runs and has gone deep in 10 straight games. The Giants, who haven't swept a three-game series in Atlanta since June 27-29, 1988, haven't homered in 11 consecutive contests since a 14-game run July 28-Aug. 13, 2002.

''I don't think we'll hit this many home runs, but I said before the season started this team is going to have more power,'' manager Bruce Bochy said.

The Braves (17-12) have a major league-leading 2.67 ERA, but have been a mess offensively. They've plated nine runs and hit .193 in losing their last five games, their longest skid since dropping eight in a row May 21-28, 2012.

The heart of the lineup is partly to blame, as Freddie Freeman is 2 for 19, dropping his average 40 points to .304, while Evan Gattis is 2 for 16, causing his average to fall from .303 to .268.

Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson were a combined 3 for 22 last season against Bumgarner, who posted a 0.64 ERA with 21 strikeouts over 14 innings in winning both of his 2013 outings versus Atlanta.

Bumgarner (2-3, 3.74 ERA) has frustrated batters at times in 2014, striking out 37 in 33 2-3 innings, but hasn't been overly dominant. He's allowing 3.48 walks per nine innings after averaging 2.27 in his first four seasons as a starter. He hasn't been getting a lot of luck, either, as his opponent batting average on balls in play of .394 is the majors' third-worst. He had baseball's sixth-best last season at .257.

''I think it's fair to say he's made a few more mistakes than we're accustomed to,'' Bochy said after Bumgarner yielded season highs of five runs and four walks over five innings of Monday's 6-4 loss to San Diego.

Despite his struggles, Bumgarner has found success on the road, posting a 1.96 ERA in three starts. He has a 1.71 ERA in three starts in Atlanta.

Like Bumgarner, Alex Wood (2-4, 2.93) is also trying to avoid losing a fourth straight start.

Wood pitched a couple of gems in the first two outings of his skid, allowing one run over eight innings each time in 1-0 losses. He entered Tuesday's start against Miami - his second straight versus the Marlins - with a 1.54 ERA, but was knocked around for seven runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings of a 9-0 loss.

''They made some adjustments from last week,'' Wood said. ''Any time you make back-to-back starts against a team that swings the bats well, you can't make a whole lot of mistakes."

There won't be much familiarity by the hitters this time. The second-year left-hander pitched one inning of relief in his lone outing against the Giants last June.

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