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Giants Vs. Braves NLDS Game 3: Preview

(Sports Network) – The San Francisco Giants turn to rookie Madison Bumgarner as they try to secure their first National League Championship Series berth in eight years this evening, when they attempt to finish off the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS at Turner Field.

After enduring a heartbreaking loss in Game 2 of this set, the Giants pulled off an improbable victory on Sunday, as Atlanta’s Brooks Conrad’s third error of the contest led to Freddy Sanchez scoring the go-ahead run in the ninth inning and lifting San Francisco to a 3-2 win.

Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske clubbed a two-run homer off Sergio Romo (1-0) in the bottom of the eighth to give the Braves a 2-1 edge, but the Giants scored twice in the ninth with two outs to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

Aubrey Huff singled in Travis Ishikawa to tie the game and with men on first and second, Buster Posey grounded a ball that went between the legs of Conrad and into right field.

Conrad, who moved from third base to second at the end of the season because of throwing errors, has committed eight errors over his last seven games. Four of those miscues have come in the NLDS. In the second inning, his dropped pop- up allowed San Francisco’s first run to score.

“It’s completely embarrassing, once again I felt I let everybody down,” Conrad said. “I feel absolutely terrible right now. I wish I could just dig a hole and go sleep in there. It’s something you have to get over quick.”

Giants closer Brian Wilson gave up a two-out single to Brian McCann in the bottom of the ninth, but Nate McLouth grounded out to end the game.

San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ended up fanning 11 over 7 1/3 frames. Tim Hudson gave up one unearned run on four hits over seven innings in the start for the Braves.

“A very intense game, great game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “There are two starting pitchers that were going at it and pitching very well, but that ninth inning, emotions were running high.”

Teams taking a 2-1 lead in NLDS play have won the series 15 of 16 times since the Wild Card and three-tiered playoff format were adopted in 1995. That bodes well for a Giants team that is looking to get back into the NLCS for the first time since 2002.

“It feels good,” Giants infielder Mike Fontenot said after the game. “It definitely feels good. We wanted to come in here and try to get things done, and we came up with a big one tonight. We’re definitely looking forward to [Monday].”

Bumgarner, the Giants’ first-round pick in 2007, was pretty effective down the stretch, going 2-0 with a 1.18 earned run average over his final six starts. For the year, he was 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA.

“I’m going to try to have the same demeanor no matter what,” Bumgarner said. “That’s definitely a plus, but I’m going to try to go out there and stay the same.”

Bumgarner, who has never faced the Braves, was actually better away from the Bay Area, as he posted a 6-3 mark with a 1.19 ERA in his 10 road starts. However, he hasn’t pitched since September 30, when he gave up a run and struck out seven in five innings to beat Arizona.

A win tonight would make Bumgarner, who turned 21 in August, the second- youngest starting pitcher ever to get a playoff series-clinching win – Fernando Valnezuela pitched 8 2/3 innings to beat the Montreal Expos for the 1981 Dodgers in the decisive fifth game of the NLCS.

Either way, he’ll be the youngest playoff starter in Giants history, breaking the record of Jerome Williams, who was 21 years, 304 days old when he went two-plus innings in Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS.

Atlanta, meanwhile, will rely on the right arm of Derek Lowe, who will be pitching on three days rest after suffering a hard-luck loss in Game 1 of this series. Lowe was outdueled by Tim Lincecum, but allowed just a run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Over his career, Lowe has pitched on short rest in the playoffs four times and is 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA in those situations.

“You set your mind because this is what you want to do,” said Lowe. “You have a workout program all year long — not just to get you through the regular season, but to get you through the World Series.”

Lowe was also impressive this season at Turner Field, where he went 10-5 and allowed three runs or less in six of his last eight starts.

Should the Giants win this evening they will start the NLCS on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies advanced on Sunday with a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in their NLDS matchup.

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