Programming note: Giants-Pirates coverage starts tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Channel Locations)
The last time the Giants swept a series in Atlanta, George Bush was campaigning to win the Republican nomination.
The elder Bush.
It was 25 years ago and the Braves were a different team in 1988. They didn’t have Smoltz, Glavine or Maddux. They played at Fulton County Stadium. They hadn’t won those 14 consecutive NL East titles. They were the kind of team you could walk in and sweep, and behind Atlee Hammaker and Kelly Downs and Don “Caveman” Robinson, that’s what the Giants did.
Then came Bobby Cox and those pitchers, and through the 1990s and beyond, the Braves left plenty of cleat marks on the Giants’ backs.
Turner Field opened in 1995 and the Giants were 22-41-1 in the regular season there, winning exactly two of 24 series in the House that Ted Built, before arriving on Friday.
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But the Giants caught the Braves at a good juncture in the schedule this time. It’s not always who you’re playing. Oftentimes, it’s when you happen to catch them. And although the Giants' starting pitchers allowed just two earned runs over 18 innings in this three-game series, the Braves will tell you that they had a few mistakes and didn’t hit them. They were 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position against Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner.
Here’s the amazing thing: The Giants were worse. Has a team ever swept a series without a single hit with runners in scoring position? That’s what happened. And it happened at Turner Field, of all places.
The Giants were 0 for 10 Sunday, and hitless in 13 at-bats in the series, yet Brandon Crawford hit a pair of home runs to lead them to a 4-1 victory. It was their ninth win in 10 games and it was the first multihomer game of Crawford’s career. He hit a solo shot off a lefty, Alex Wood, that tied the game in the fourth inning and added a two-run shot on a 96 mph fastball from right-hander Jordan Walden. It was an impressive performance, and it came a day after Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle asked him whether the team’s home run binge was getting everyone into derby mode at the plate.
“I haven’t sensed that,” Crawford was quoted as saying. “Maybe that’s because I haven’t gotten in on it yet.”
He’s in on it now. The Giants are 6-0 outside the NL West after sweeps of the Indians at home and the Braves on the road. Now they head to Pittsburgh for their first look at an NL Central club. They were 11-23 against the NL Central last season, losing all five season series to a division that sent three teams to the playoffs.
The Pirates might be in a little funk now, but they snapped that long playoff drought last season. They’re not the Michael Dukakis of baseball any longer.