The sweet tea in Atlanta was sweeter yesterday afternoon than it was Friday evening before 10:05 PM EDT. In their first meeting since the 2010 NLDS, the Giants were swept by the Atlanta Braves over this weekend’s brief three game home stand, and while sweet taste of revenge rained down upon the home of Peachtree St and Turner Field Sunday afternoon, the three-game slide heightened concerns regarding the reigning world champions’ slowish start to the 2011 regular season.
Friday night saw our boys in orange and black fall to the Braves 4-1, due entirely to young starting pitcher Madison Bumgardner struggling in his second year of service in the majors. He was yanked after 2 2/3 innings (the shortest start of his career), his ERA climbed from 7.36 to 7.79, and debate between whether Bumgardner is a young player battling through a slump or whether he lost the talent and ability to be dominate that we all saw help get the Giants those beautiful Tiffany rings they were presented back on April 9th. Back-to-back Cy Young award winning and hairstyle trend setter Tim Linceceum got the start Saturday, which more often that results in the Giants taking the game, however the Braves were unfazed by “the Freak”. Timmy struggled with his control throughout his start while Atlanta Braves ace Tim Hudson was on fire, baffling a Giants line up (which could still use some help as far as power and pop is concerned) and only allowing them two runs.. Ultimately, the Braves took advatage of six walks Linceceum gave up and put five runs on the board, which was all it took for the Braves to leave the park with a win with a final score of 5-2.
Sunday’s game was one of those hard luck games that will be forever dissected by diehard fans over Anchor Steams in bars, backyards, and living rooms all over the Bay Area. Lead by starting pitchers Jonathan Sanchez (Giants) and Brandon Beachy (Braves), both of whom looked good on the hill throughout the durations of their starts, the Giants and Braves kept pace with each other as the game progressed. Both teams were hitting the ball well, with Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward going deep for the Braves, while 2010 NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey sent his fifth ball into the stands for the Giants. The game was tied 6-6 in the ninth inning, when closing pitcher/facial hair enthusiast Brian Wilson entered the game and blew through the top of the ninth in order, including two strike outs. The Giants couldn’t get a run on the board to wrap up the game in the ninth, so it was onto extra innings. The Braves took advantage of Brian Wilson loading the bases before giving up a two run single to Nate McClouth, giving the Braves the lead and Brian Wilson a reason to hit the showers. Jeremy Affeldt replaced Wilson, allowed another run, bringing the game to what would ultimately its final score of 9-6 in favor of Atlanta. The Giants offense failed to get a clutch hitting performance from anyone in the tenth, leaving them swept, heartbroken, and scratching their heads on what was an otherwise beautiful Bay Area day.
The Giants are off today, starting a ten game road trip tomorrow facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, and the New York Mets. Hopefully Bruce Bochy and the boys will shake off this weekend’s poor performance against Atlanta and take advantage of playing three teams who, on paper at least, are all teams the Giants should have no trouble beating.
The Giants are holding down third place in the NL West with a record of 10-11, behind the Rockies (14-7) and the Dodgers (12-11), who are in first and second place respectively. As we wrap up the first month of the 2011 season, it may be a little early to assume “panic” mode for the orange and black, but its becoming clearer that the Giants aren’t quite a shoe-in for an appearance in the 2011 World Series, or even the playoffs at this point. It’s time for the Giants to dig in, keep the pitching dialed, and really elevate their offensive performance on a day to day basis so they can even get the chance to defend their 2010 World Title.