The Braves took the season series against the Giants 4-3. What does that mean? Likely little -- actually very little when you consider how different both rosters are since the start of the season-- but regardless, it is interesting to look at, especially from a pitching perspective.
On the Mound:
The Braves hit Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez well this year, with Cain starting just once and Sanchez starting twice. Cain allowed three runs in five innings, with six hits, two walks, and four strikeouts in his lone outing. Sanchez pitched 8.1 innings while allowing seven earned runs. The Braves hit two home runs off of him and walked five times, although they were struck out on ten different occasions. If the Braves are able to be patient against Sanchez, then they should certainly be successful if he starts in this series.
Tim Lincecum has historically pitched well against the Braves, which continued this year. He had a 17-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 13.1 innings pitched. His ERA against the Braves was 3.38, although he did allow a few long balls. He gave up three homers to the Braves, which is certainly a good sign as he will pitch in game one.
Barry Zito saw the most success of any of the four expected starters for the Giants. He made just one start, but lasted seven innings and struck out ten batters. He allowed two solo home runs and walked two, but it was an undoubtedly great performance. This is semi-expected, since the Braves are notorious for struggling against left-handed pitchers who are not quite overpowering.
The Giant bullpen was very impressive as well, with eight different relievers throwing at least two innings and never allowing a run to cross. Both teams boast stellar bullpens, so scoring on the starters will be the game plan for both Atlanta and San Francisco.
For the Braves staff, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Tommy Hanson all performed well. Hudson threw 15 innings over two starts, striking out eight and walking just one. He allowed just six hits and two runs to cross -- another terrific sign for the Braves.
Lowe pitched 11.1 innings over his two outings, striking out six but walking eight. He was able to maneuver himself out of tight situations, but he has got to be more accurate with his pitches in game one. The Giants are an impatient team and Lowe has been throwing the ball extremely well -- hence his N.L. Pitcher of the Month Award for September -- so I expect his strikeout-to-walk ratio to improve.
Hanson threw seven innings in his only start against the Giants. He struck out just three and walked two, but allowed only three hits and one run to score. The Giants definitely have a great rotation, but the Braves top three starters should not be overlooked, especially with how well each of them closed out the season.
The bullpen struggled at times, with Billy Wagner blowing a save early in the season. Takashi Saito pitched well, but his status for the divisional series is questionable at best. Jonny Venters was also effectivel, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4-1, but he has struggled as of late, likely due to a partially tired arm. The Braves starters pitched well against the Giants for the most part, so their relievers do not have many innings against them this year.
At the Dish:
The Giants hit just three home runs off of Braves pitching this year, two of which came from Edgar Renteria -- Renteria has not played in a game since September 18 -- and Travis Ishikawa -- who GoldenGateGiants.com projects will not make the post-season roster.
The other home run came from Pablo Sandoval. Both he and center fielder Andres Torres hit the Braves well. Outside of those two, Pat Burrell was the only hitter to have an OPS over .750 against the Braves. Star hitter and potential Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey, was just 1-11 with a walk against the Braves this season. I doubt he will be as ineffective, but the Braves may look back at those at bats to get a solid plan of attack.
The players who hit the Giants the best were Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Alex Gonzalez. Both Prado and Jones are out, with Omar Infante and Brooks Conrad filling in their places. Gonzalez had two homers in just 14 plate appearances, one of which was off of a Lincecum curveball. Heyward homered twice in San Fransisco earlier this season, both to the opposite field.
The series matchup favors the Braves in the rotation and at the plate, with the Giants getting better work out of their bullpen. As previously stated, this all likely means very little considering the sample size, but the fact that Hanson, Lowe, and Hudson were all able to perform well is certainly a good sign.