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Braves-Giants NLDS Game 3 Preview

(Sports Network) – The Atlanta Braves try to wrestle control of their National League Division Series matchup with the San Francisco Giants this afternoon when the series shifts to Turner Field for Game 3.

After San Francisco won Game 1 behind a dominant effort from Tim Lincecum, these teams staged a wild Game 2, as Rick Ankiel’s one-out solo bomb into McCovey Cove in the 11th capped a comeback, as Atlanta recovered from an early four-run deficit to stun the Giants, 5-4.

Ankiel, whose postseason experience began with multiple wild pitches as a pitcher with St. Louis in 2000, hit his first career postseason home run for the Braves, who scored three runs in the eighth to tie the game and held off a bases-loaded, one-out threat from the Giants in the 10th.

“It’s hard to describe or put into words,” Ankiel said of his feelings. “The biggest homer of my career by far, and to be honest with you, I wanted to go from the batter’s box to the dugout. I didn’t want to run the bases.”

Kyle Farnsworth (1-0), the seventh Braves pitcher of the evening, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, including inducing a double-play groundout from rookie sensation Buster Posey to end the 10th with the bases loaded.

Pat Burrell hit a three-run homer in the first inning, but the Giants ended the game with nine consecutive scoreless innings in the loss. Burrell was the only San Francisco player with more than one hit, also doubling later in the contest.

Matt Cain pitched well enough to win, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and two walks while fanning six in 6 2/3 frames. Sergio Romo, however, allowed two runs without recording an out, and closer Brian Wilson gave up another run — unearned — in two frames. Ramon Ramirez (0-1) served up Ankiel’s monster shot to take the loss.

“You have to (bounce back),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s how you do it because it’s part of the game. You know, they came back on us. And, you know, that’s a tough loss, no getting around it, but you have to bounce back.”

Getting the call for the Giants tonight will be the man who pitched them into the postseason, left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who was brilliant in beating the San Diego Padres to clinch the National League West title for his team on the season’s final day.

Sanchez scattered just three hits over five scoreless innings to beat the Padres. He won five of his final six decisions and was 13-9 on the year with a 3.07 ERA.

“I’m just going to go out there and do my job,” said Sanchez, who pitched to a 1.03 ERA over his final seven starts. “I know there’s a lot of pressure right now. But it’s just like any other game. The only difference is there’s more people (watching).”

Sanchez has struggled in his career against the Braves, going just 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA in seven games, five of which have been starts. It was after a loss in Atlanta earlier in the year that Sanchez guaranteed that his team would win the NL West.

“I just remember looking around at the guys,” Sanchez said of his brash comments from two months ago. “I knew how we were playing back then, and I just reminded everyone that we had a pretty good team. Then after I said it that day, we really started winning games. And now we’re here.”

Atlanta will counter with veteran right-hander Tim Hudson, who was recently named the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year. After missing most of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 35-year-old Hudson posted a 17-9 record to go with a 2.83 earned run average in making 34 starts.

“Huddy has had a great year,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox. “I think he would have been in the running for the Cy Young, but he had three or four games there lately when he gave up some runs. He’s come a long way. He pitched [late] last August [and September], which helped him to get through this season. To me, he’s pitched like the old Tim Hudson.”

In his last seven starts dating back to Sept. 2, though, Hudson is 2-4, having allowed 26 earned runs in his last 50 innings for a 4.68 ERA during that span.

His win total was the third-highest in his career, since totaling 20 in 2000 and 18 in 2001, also the last year he picked up a win in the postseason. Overall in the playoffs, Hudson is 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA in nine appearances, eight of them starts.

Hudson beat the Giants with eight scoreless innings the last time he faced them and is 5-4 with a 3.56 ERA in 13 starts against them.

Should Hudson have the lead, though, he won’t have the luxury of Billy Wagner getting the final three outs. The Braves lost their closer in the 10th inning with a strained left oblique injury. Atlanta could opt to replace Wagner on its roster, but if they do so he would not be eligible to play in the NLCS should the Braves advance.

“These guys will be fine without me,” said Wagner. “You’ve got unknowns out there, and the opponents don’t know any patterns. You can’t gear up. With 15 years of Billy Wagner, you know what’s coming. You don’t know what [Craig] Kimbrel, [Jonny] Venters and [Mike] Dunn are going to do.”

While either right-handers Takashi Saito or Jair Jurrjens would replace Wagner on the roster, the closing duties would likely fall to Craig Kimbrel, who was 4-0 with a 0.44 ERA in 21 games this season. He also struck out 40 batters in just 20 2/3 innings.

Atlanta won four of seven matchups with San Francisco this season.

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