Giants beat Braves, advance to face Phillies

San Francisco's Aubrey Huff (17) is greeted by teammates after scoring in the seventh inning on an error against Atlanta.
San Francisco's Aubrey Huff (17) is greeted by teammates after scoring in the seventh inning on an error against Atlanta.
Posted: October 12, 2010

ATLANTA - Memo to the scoreboard operator at Citizens Bank Park: Bring some reading material for the National League Championship Series, because chances are you won't be very busy.

San Francisco emerged Monday night as the club that stands in the way of the Phillies' quest for a third straight World Series appearance, and the Giants have the pitching to make matters quite uncomfortable.

In another white-knuckle game, the Giants advanced by edging the Atlanta Braves, 3-2, at Turner Field to win the NL division series, three games to one. The game ended with closer Brian Wilson getting Melky Cabrera on a grounder to third with runners on first and second.

"We've played them well in the past," Wilson said of the Phillies. "Now it's up for grabs. I've never been to the postseason, but I like our chances."

The NLCS begins Saturday with a dream pitching matchup between arguably the two best righthanders in the game - Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum, a skinny, long-haired 175-pounder who has won two NL Cy Young Awards, even though he's 26 years old.

The loss ended the 29-year managerial career of Bobby Cox, who took Atlanta to the brink of the NLCS despite a roster ravaged by injuries to key players. As the Giants celebrated on the field, Braves fans chanted, "Bobby . . . Bobby," and the 69-year-old manager waved his cap to the cheering crowd.

"I got a chance to play against him for five years," said Giants rightfielder Cody Ross, who homered and drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the seventh. "I love coming in here seeing him. I want to congratulate the Braves on a fine season and him on a great career."

The Giants' four starters allowed the Braves three runs over 29 innings, and they had to be good because runs are hard to come by for the West Division champions.

The series will return Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia, although Rowand is no longer a starter.

But the series will be about pitching, which seems appropriate in the year of the pitcher.

The Giants took two of three from the Phillies in late April in San Francisco, then the Phillies came back and won two of three from the Giants at Citizens Bank Park in mid-August.

Lefthander Jonathan Sanchez was the Giants' most effective pitcher against the Phillies, beating them twice by 5-1 and 5-2 scores. Sanchez has been at his best in the last month. In his last eight starts, including Monday's Game 3 of the NLDS, he has allowed more than one earned run only once.

Lincecum recovered from a terrible August (0-5, 7.82 ERA) to go 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA in his final six regular-season starts. Righthander Matt Cain joins Lincecum and Sanchez as the Giants' top three starters.

The day after Halladay pitched his no-hitter against the Reds in the NLDS opener, Lincecum pitched a two-hit shutout and struck out 14 in a 2-0 win over the Braves.

Linceum, Cain and Sanchez will be well-rested. Giants manager Bruce Bochy went with 21-year-old lefthander Madison Bumgarner in Game 4, saving Lincecum for a possible Game 5.

The pitching matchup Monday favored the Braves. Derek Lowe made his 12th career playoff start, and he was pitching on three days' rest rather than the usual four. He had the Giants thoroughly flummoxed until Ross drilled a one-out homer in the sixth.

It was the first hit off Lowe, who had eight strikeouts and faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings.

"I can't say enough about our pitching," Ross said. "They keep us in it the whole time. We just need to score a few."

Lowe was trying to protect a 1-0 lead when Ross homered in the sixth, but Brian McCann put the Braves back on top, 2-1, by sending Bumgarner's first pitch in the bottom of the sixth over the wall.

But the needle on Lowe's fuel tank was approaching empty in the seventh. He was pulled after he wrapped two walks around an infield single, and his night was finished. The Giants' tying run came home when shortstop Alex Gonzalez threw high to second for an error on a fielder's choice.

Then Ross came up big again with a bases-loaded single that put the Giants in front, 3-2. The lead-footed Burrell was thrown out at the plate trying to score the second run on Ross's hit.

The 37-year-old Lowe went into the game on a roll. He was named NL pitcher of the month for September after going 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA. He had 29 strikeouts and a mere three walks in 302/3 innings.

A first-round draft choice in 2007, the tall lefthander also had a good September, going 2-2 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts. Bumgarner went 34-6 in the minors with a 2.00 ERA. His fastball is consistently around 95 m.p.h. But he'd never faced the pressure of postseason play.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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