The Giants found their one-way ticket to win games at Turner Field: purchase enough round-trip fares.
For the second consecutive night, they used solo home runs and a whole lot of tenacious pitching from the stretch to subdue the Atlanta Braves in a 3-1 victory Saturday.
Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and Michael Morse hit solo home runs and Ryan Vogelsong kept most of his pitches in the river silt of the strike zone to win for the first time this season.
A night earlier, it was Tim Lincecum who scrambled to make pitches from the stretch and it was Angel Pagan who joined Morse in hitting solo shots.
The Giants’ last nine home runs have come with the bases empty, a streak that started after Brandon Hicks’ three-run walk-off shot that beat the Indians last Sunday.
One more win and the Giants would have their first three-game sweep in Atlanta since June, 1988, back at old Fulton County Stadium.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong took Lincecum’s template and precisely followed it against the Braves, giving up just one run despite nine baserunners in six innings.
Like Lincecum, who held the Braves to 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position on Friday, Vogelsong made his best pitches from the stretch. The Braves were just 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position as both starters found a way to avoid the big inning.
Vogelsong’s easiest inning was the first, when he recorded three outs on seven pitches. He had to work harder in the second inning, when he threw 25 pitches and shortstop Brandon Crawford made an error on a missed catch at second base. But third baseman Pablo Sandoval made his most impressive play of the season, picking up both his pitcher and his shortstop by diving to stop Chris Johnson’s grounder to the hole and then quickly getting off a throw to start a double play.
Then Vogelsong did what he often does. He refused to give in, pitching around both the Nos. 7-8 hitters before retiring pitcher Julio Teheran with a tapper back to the mound to strand the bases loaded.
The dreaded leadoff walk contributed to the Braves’ only run against Vogelsong. Jason Heyward drew it to start the third, he barely stole second base after a strong throw from Buster Posey and B.J. Upton turned on an inside fastball for a tying double down the left field line.
Freddie Freeman singled to put runners at the corners, as the Braves opted not to test Hunter Pence’s arm in right field. Then Vogelsong managed to escape, first striking out Jusin Upton with a curveball and then spotting a fastball that Evan Gattis swung through. Posey made another strong throw to get Freeman on the move for a double play that ended the inning.
Vogelsong struck out Justin Upton again to end the fifth and strand two runners, perhaps getting away with a hanging slider that was fouled back before coming back with the same pitch in a better location to entice him to chase.
In perhaps the best sign of the night, Vogelsong got stronger when Bruce Bochy tried to squeeze one more inning out of him. He showed tremendous command of everything while striking out three power hitters, including an elevated fastball that Andrelton Simmons
Vogelsong has 12 strikeouts in 13 innings over his last two starts.
Jeremy Affeldt retired the side in the seventh, extending his streak to nine scoreless innings over eight appearances since coming off the disabled list. Right-handed batters are 1 for 17 against him.
Affeldt issued a walk to start the eighth, but Jean Machi got three outs on two ground balls. And Sergio Romo came back one night after a stressful save to pitch a 1-2-3 inning while making it 8-for-8 this season.
At the plate
The Giants only had four hits, but three of them were solo homers. Belt set aside his slump long enough to connect in the second inning, Posey hit a tiebreaking shot in the fourth and Morse parked one to left field in the seventh.
All five of their runs in this series have come on solo homers. And ever since Brandon Hicks’ walk-off shot beat the Indians last Sunday, each of the Giants’ last nine homers have come with the bases empty.
They have hit 39 homers this season and 28 are solo shots.
Remarkably, Belt has homered in every park where he’s taken the field this season. He got a down-and-in pitch from Teheran and turned on it, as he’s been doing all season to pitches in that location.
Posey also singled and ended the day 6 for 9 lifetime against Teheran. Morse’s tack-on homer was his eighth of the season, tying Belt for the club lead. Seven of Morse’s shots have come with the bases empty; five of Belt’s homers are solo shots.
All three of the homers came off Teheran, who had allowed just two all season.
Sandoval’s stop saved both Crawford and Vogelsong. And Posey is 8 for 20 throwing out baserunners. No major league catcher has caught more runners this season.
Hicks got down a nice tag on Posey’s throw that nabbed Freeman in the third, too.
And Crawford ended the game with an emphatic stop of a grounder up the middle, getting to his feet and making a 360-degree spin move while throwing out Simmons, the defending Gold Glover at shortstop.
The Giants and Braves conclude their three-game series at Turner Field on Sunday. It’ll be Madison Bumgarner (2-3, 3.74) against left-hander Alex Wood (2-4, 2.93). First pitch is scheduled for 10:35 a.m. I’ll take my grits with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, thanks.