The Atlanta Braves return to the playoffs for the first time in four years and gave retiring manager Bobby Cox one more in the playoffs. The team the Braves are taking to the playoffs comes hobbling in as the Braves lost two key figures to season-ending injuries, infielders Chipper Jones and Martin Prado.
But the Braves, which won the season series with the Giants, 4-3, do bring in rookie-of-the-year candidate Jason Heyward, who batted .277 with 18 home runs, 72 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Even with the depleted lineup, the Braves average more runs, 4.6 per game, than the Giants, 4.3. The Braves are a grinder type team with Omar Infante, Derrek Lee and Brian McCann providing most of the offensive punch.
The Giants have their own rookie-of-the-year candidate in Buster Posey, who batted .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI. He is the center piece to the offense that has been hot and cold for the Giants. The Giants have added players like Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen to try and add some pop to the lineup, but have only sporadic success.
Braves: 3B Omar Infante (.321), RF Jason Heyward (.277), 1B Derrek Lee (.260), C Brian McCann (.269), LF Melky Cabrera (.255), SS Alex Gonzalez (.250), 2B Brooks Conrad (.250), CF Rick Ankiel (.232).
Giants: CF Andres Torres (.268), 2B Freddy Sanchez (.292), 1B Aubrey Huff (.290), C Buster Posey (.305), LF Pat Burrell (.266), SS Juan Uribe (.248), RF Jose Guillen (.266), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.268).
If love pitching, this is the series for you. Both squads have above average starting pitching and rather deep bullpens.
The series opener features two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum for the Giants. The right-hander went 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA and 231 strikeouts. His last three starts, he had a 1.80 ERA and a WHIP of 1.000.
The Braves throw right-hander Derek Lowe, who has a 4.00 ERA and a 16-12 record. He has won his last five starts and has an 1.17 ERA in those games.
Game 2, the Braves will pitch right-hander Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.33) against right-hander Matt Cain (13-11, 3.14). Game 3 will have right-hander Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83) against San Francisco’s left-hander Jonathan Sanchez (13-9, 3.07)
For closers, the Braves have left-hander Billy Wagner (1.43 ERA and 37 saves). They also have left-hander Johnny Venters, whose 1.95 ERA is the best among major league rookies with at least 50 appearances.
The Giants rely on right-handed closer Brian Wilson, who has a 1.81 ERA and 48 saves. Right-hander Ramon Ramirez has a 0.67 ERA.
(All times EDT) Game 1, Thursday, at San Francisco (9:37 p.m.); Game 2, Friday, at San Francisco (9:37 p.m.); Game 3, Sunday, at Atlanta (TBA); x-Game 4, Monday, Oct. 11, at Atlanta (TBA); x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 13, at San Francisco (TBA). (All games on TBS). x-if necessary.
The bookmakers have opened the Giants as a -150 favorite over the Braves and they have seen more money come in on the Giants driving the line up and the current odds are now New York -159 with +139 take back on the Braves. You can bet on this series and all games at Bookmaker.
Atlanta is 4-3 (+0.5 Units) against San Francisco this season and 3 of 6 games in this series have gone over the total. The Braves are primed for an upset. If Lowe can out-duel Lincecum in the opener, then they have a real shot at the upset in four games. Braves manager Bobby Cox is playoff tested and the Giants bats can go cold quickly.