Giants-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

The NL West-leading San Francisco Giants are trying to bolster their position in the playoff race, and sweeping the Atlanta Braves on the road for the first time in 24 years couldn't hurt.

Madison Bumgarner will try to extend the Giants' longest winning streak of the season Thursday while possibly keeping Atlanta's Chipper Jones from an impressive milestone.

San Francisco (51-40) leads the West by three games over second-place Los Angeles after winning five in a row, including the first two games of this series.

The Giants won 9-4 in 11 innings Wednesday, putting themselves one victory from their first sweep in Atlanta (49-41) since June 27-29, 1988.

Their success in this three-game set is damaging the Braves' position in the East standings. They'd moved within 2 1/2 games of division-leading Washington after entering this series with a seven-game winning streak, but they're now 4 1/2 back. Atlanta will visit the nation's capital for a four-game set starting Friday.

Bumgarner (11-5, 3.15 ERA) will try to help San Francisco compound Atlanta's woes and complete the sweep by building on one of his best performances of the season.

The left-hander allowed one run and two hits in seven innings of a 5-1 win over Houston on Friday, improving to 6-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his last eight starts.

He's made an adjustment to his curveball with the help of fellow southpaw Jeremy Affeldt, according to the Giants' official website.

"I actually was just watching and talking to Affeldt, he has a really good curveball," Bumgarner told the website. "We've been working on some stuff, and I made a little adjustment, and it made it a whole lot better."

Bumgarner is 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA in two career starts against Atlanta.

Jones will try to help the Braves solve Bumgarner again, after going 1 for 2 with an RBI double in his only meeting against him April 22, 2011.

Another similar effort would put the probable future Hall of Famer in the record books. With a solo homer Wednesday Jones drove in his 1,596th career run, tying George Brett for the most RBIs by a player whose primary position was third base.

Jones is hitting .355 with eight RBIs in his last nine games versus the Giants.

The Braves will give the ball to Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.80), who hasn't lost to the Giants since April 8, 2006. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA in seven meetings since, including three wins in four games at Turner Field.

The right-hander, though, is 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA in eight home starts this year.

He's struggled greatly over his last two outings in Atlanta, losing his only decision and surrendering 10 runs in 10 innings. Hudson cruised through the first three innings Friday, but was pulled after surrendering four runs in the fourth of Atlanta's 7-5 win over New York.

"I just didn't make very good pitches," Hudson told the Braves' official website. "I was a little out of sorts out there."

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey is 12 for 21 with nine RBIs in his last six games after getting three hits in each of the last three. However, he could rest in this day game after a night game.

"At some point he's going to need a day off," manager Bruce Bochy said.

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