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Braves Vs. Giants: Atlanta Travels To San Francisco For Three Against The World Champs

The road trip only gets tougher for the Braves. Following a series loss in which they lost three of four to the Dodgers, Atlanta remains in California to play the defending champion Giants for three games.

The Giants are 10-8, sitting in second place behind the Rockies, who are three games ahead. The Giants have played steady ball so far, not going on tears or skids, but just sitting tight. They haven't lost a series since the opening one to the Dodgers. Perhaps their best effort came in their most recent series when they won two of three over the Rockies.

Friday, April 22 - 10:15 (SportSouth)
Tommy Hanson (21 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 3 BB/9, 7.29 K/9, 47.5 GB%, 6.5 SwStr%)
(56.5 FB%, 21.4 SL%, 17.4 CB%, 4.6 CH%; 41.9 Swing%, 83.3 Contact%)
Madison Bumgarner (14.2 IP, 7.36 ERA, 5.47 FIP, 4.89 xFIP, 4.91 BB/9, 4.3 K/9, 41.5 GB%, 6.5 SwStr%)
(60.2 FB%, 26.8 SL%, 7.9 CB%, 5.1 CH%; 47 Swing%, 84.9 Contact%)

After a dominating performance against the Marlins, Hanson responded with another good outing against the Mets, allowing three runs in five innings and striking out nine. He had the lowest ground ball total of his season so far, but he also easily surpassed his previous strikeout high of five. Hanson's stuff plays more as a strikeout pitcher, but that hasn't really been the case so far as a major leaguer, though he has shown glimpses like the Mets start.

Bumgarner's first three starts this season have been less than stellar, allowing three runs, four runs and five runs over 14.2 innings. He has struggled with control, walking four and three in two of the starts. His most recent outing was his best so far, going 6.2 innings while allowing four runs on eight hits and just one walk. However, the strikeouts aren't there, and Bumgarner is allowing a ton of fly balls. Bumgarner has become more of a fastball/slider pitcher so far, throwing fewer curves and changeups to this point, despite those two pitches being very effective for him last year. He's getting fewer swings out of the zone, and his pitches in the zone are getting hit much harder, evident by a 30% line drive rate, which is off the charts.

Saturday, April 23 - 4:10 (FOX)
Tim Hudson (26.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, 1.69 BB/9, 4.39 K/9, 64 GB%, 6.4 SwStr%)
(60.2 FB%, 17.2 SL%, 11.3 SF%, 4.8 CT%, 4 CH%, 2.5 CB%; 49 Swing%, 86.9 Contact%)
Tim Lincecum (27 IP, 1.67 ERA, 2.12 FIP, 2.25 xFIP, 2.33 BB/9, 10.67 K/9, 64.1 GB%, 11.2 SwStr%)
(54.5 FB%, 27.1 CH%, 12.1 SL%, 6.2 CB%; 43.2 Swing%, 72.7 Contact%)

Hudson turned in another tough-luck outing against the Dodgers last time out, allowing four runs in six innings. He induced 17 ground balls to to just four fly balls and one line drive. Hudson is turning in another solid ground ball rate so far, sitting in fourth in the National League in GB%. As long as the grounders keep coming, he will be fine.

The other Timmy has a ground ball rate exactly one-tenth of a point better. Lincecum has dominated through four starts, allowing just one run in each of three starts and three runs in the other. His K/BB of 4.57 is his career best so far due to 32 strikeouts in 27 innings. His most recent outing was 7.2 innings of one-run ball on three hits, walking three and striking out 10 while inducing 12 ground balls against the Rockies. His fastball velocity is almost back to 93 MPH while his slider is much sharper and harder. In fact, he's throwing all of his pitches harder. He has laid off some on the curveball while relying more on the changeup and slider.

Sunday, April 24 - 4:05 (Fox Sports South)
Brandon Beachy (23.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 3.59 xFIP, 3.47 BB/9, 9.26 K/9, 34.4 GB%, 10.4 SwStr%)
(65.7 FB%, 15.7 SL%, 9.5 CB%, 9.2 CH%; 45.6 Swing%, 76.1 Contact%)
Jonathan Sanchez (23 IP, 3.13 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 3.33 xFIP, 4.3 BB/9, 10.96 K/9, 38.3 GB%, 13.1 SwStr%)
(60.9 FB%, 19.9 CH%, 19.2 SL%; 45.1 Swing%, 70.5 Contact%)

Beachy had a much better outing last time out, pitching six shutout innings on two hits against the Dodgers, walking two and striking out seven. It was a return to the Beachy we know, which is great command and high strikeout totals. Once his walk rate begins to fall, he will become much more consistent, and judging by his minor league numbers, it will happen.

Sanchez has been solid through four starts, allowing no more than four runs or three earned runs in any start. His 28 strikeouts in 23 innings is the best rate of his career to this point, and while walks have always been the main issue with Sanchez, they have remained somewhat in check so far. Sanchez allowed three runs on just two hits in 6.1 innings against the Rockies last time out, walking four and striking out four.

The Giants bullpen is sporting the best FIP in baseball at 2.60. Brian Wilson has struggled since his return from the disabled list, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings, yet he has five saves. Sergio Romo has pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, while Javier Lopez has allowed one run in six innings. Ramon Ramirez has been a steady workhorse, allowing two runs in 10.2 innings, and Jeremy Affeldt has given up two runs in 7.1 innings. Guillermo Mota has the most innings in the pen with 13, allowing five runs.

Projected Giants Lineup:
1. Aaron Rowand, CF
2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B
3. Aubrey Huff, 1B
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Pat Burrell, LF
7. Cody Ross, RF
8. Miguel Tejada, SS

Sandoval appears back to his old self this year, which is crucial to the Giants' success offensively. With the loss of Andres Torres, the Giants have turned to Rowand in the leadoff spot, which is a definite downgrade, yet Rowand has a .839 OPS. Brandon Belt struggled to a .192 average, so he was sent down and Huff has taken over first base again. The Giants just got Ross back on Wednesday from the disabled list and is set to give them another strong bat in the outfield to replace Huff.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Giants fans check out McCovey Chronicles.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.