The last time the Giants homered in 11 consecutive games, Barry Bonds went deep in five of them and Dusty Baker was watching it all with a toothpick in his mouth.
Who knows if these Giants can slug their way to a World Series, as that group did in 2002. But for now, they are getting their runs via the trot. And Brandon Crawford added another block to the parade route, contributing his first career multi-homer game as the Giants beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Sunday to complete their first ever three-game sweep at Turner Field.
The last time the Giants swept a series in Atlanta, the winning pitcher on getaway day was Don “Caveman” Robinson. It wasn’t quite the Neolithic Era then, but close enough: it was 1988, when the Braves still played at Fulton County Stadium.
The Giants won the series despite not getting a single hit with runners in scoring position. They were 0 for 10 Sunday and 0 for 13 over the three games.
Starting pitching report
Madison Bumgarner still hasn’t found his ace form this season, and his command was in and out as he pitched in front of several dozen family members and friends.
But Bumgarner’s pure stuff might have been his best all season. He hit 94 mph in the first inning and used his curveball both to get ahead with backdoor strikes and as a put-away pitch. He also elevated well with two strikes. As a result, he struck out nine in six innings while holding the Braves hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
The Giants' rotation yielded just two earned runs over 18 innings in this series, but the starters also had the good fortune to catch the bat-chilled Braves at a good time. Atlanta batters were 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position against Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Bumgarner over the three games in the series.
The only run Bumgarner (3-3) allowed was more a result of his fielding than his pitching. He yanked a throw to first base after fielding pitcher Alex Wood’s sacrifice bunt in the third inning. Right fielder Hunter Pence saved a run by backing up the play, but Jason Heyward followed with a sacrifice fly.
Bruce Bochy wanted to stay away from using Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo after putting them to work in the first two games of the series. That wasn’t a problem because everyone continues to throw well in the bullpen.
Juan Gutierrez pitched a scoreless seventh inning, Javier Lopez and Jean Machi tag-teamed the eighth and Santiago Casilla handled the ninth to pick up a save.
At the plate
The Giants scored 10 runs in the series, nine of them trotted home and the lone exception scored via Rule 6.08c in the first inning Sunday.
The odd situation came about after Hunter Pence hit a one-out double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Buster Posey’s ground out. But Posey immediately pointed back at catcher Evan Gattis, whose glove clipped Posey’s swing for catcher’s interference.
The Giants had the option of accepting the result of the play – two outs, bases empty and a run on the board – or allowing Posey to reach. Bochy took the run over having runners at the corners with one out. No shocker there, since the Giants were hitting .178 with runners in scoring position over their last 19 games.
The Giants also scored the game’s first run, which is the magic mark these days. They’re now 15-1 when they get on the board first.
Crawford broke a 1-all tie in the fourth with his second homer of the season – just one more big hit off a left-handed pitcher this season. And thus the Giants’ streak of games with a homer was extended.
Crawford also extended the club’s streak to 10 consecutive home runs coming with the bases empty. Then he broke it in the eighth, following a walk to Brandon Hicks with a two-run shot on a 96 mph fastball from quirky right-hander Jordan Walden.
Michael Morse struck out in a couple of big RBI spots, but he contributed with his glove in the fifth inning. Morse took advantage of every bit of his 6-foot-5 stature, reaching near the top of the left field wall to catch Dan Uggla’s drive.
The Giants begin a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Monday. Matt Cain (0-3, 4.35 ERA), who was scratched from his previous start with a cut on his right index finger, is scheduled to return to the rotation. The Pirates are expected to recall left-hander Jeff Locke from Triple-A Indianapolis to make his first start of the season.