The San Francisco Giants enter Sunday's home series finale against the Atlanta Braves looking to keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, but need Madison Bumgarner to regain his ace status against baseball's worst team. The Giants open play Sunday two games behind the Dodgers and are just 13-24 since the All-Star break, a swoon that has cost San Francisco 8 ½ games in the standings.
San Francisco has lost or split 11 of 12 series since the break and heads into Sunday's finale needing a victory to avoid another series defeat after Saturday's 3-1 loss. The Braves have won only five of their past 17 games but have shown signs of getting their offense in gear in August. Center fielder Ender Inciarte has hit safely in 34 of his past 36 games with an at-bat, and is batting .333 since moving back to the leadoff spot Aug. 5. Rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson is hitting .278 through his first 10 major-league games, including six hits in six games during Atlanta's current seven-game road trip.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FSN South (Atlanta), CSN Bay Area (San Francisco)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves RH Aaron Blair (0-5, 7.99 ERA) vs. Giants LH Madison Bumgarner (12-8, 2.44)
Blair gets the call from Triple-A Gwinnett, seeking his first major league victory in the 12th start of his rookie campaign. The 24-year-old struggled with his control before being demoted at the end of June, issuing as many walks as strikeouts (29) while surrendering eight homers in 50 2/3 innings – including three home runs in a four-inning loss to the Giants on June 2. Blair went 2-4 with a 5.98 ERA and .313 opponents' batting average in nine starts for Gwinnett, but struck out 45 against 24 walks and three homers in 49 2/3 innings.
Bumgarner has struggled since the All-Star break, going 2-4 with a 3.71 ERA and allowing nine runs on 15 hits with four walks in 10 innings across his past two starts. But the four-time All-Star still is putting together an impressive season, ranking third in the NL in strikeouts (202), sixth in WHIP (1.05) and 10th in ERA. The 27-year-old Bumgarner, who is three victories away from reaching 100 for his career, is 6-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his past seven starts against Atlanta.
1. San Francisco 1B Brandon Belt was a late scratch from Saturday's lineup with a stiff neck and struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
2. Giants P Matt Cain (on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain) gave up six runs on 10 hits in five innings Saturday for Triple-A Sacramento, and P Jake Peavy — Saturday's scheduled starter — landed on the DL with a lower back strain.
3. Atlanta closer Jim Johnson has recorded 11 saves in his past 15 contests, allowing only one run on seven hits in 15 innings during that stretch.
PREDICTION: Giants 6, Braves 1
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