The Atlanta Braves and host San Francisco Giants are looking for the comfort of a merry-go-round when they continue their series on Saturday night, one day after a heart-pounding roller-coaster ride in their opener.
The clubs combined to use 38 players in the Giants’ 6-5 win in 11 innings Friday in a battle of division leaders. The game was decided after pitcher Kevin Gausman delivered his first career sacrifice fly to end a back-and-forth game that featured five homers — including two big ones in the ninth inning.
Gausman was batting because Giants manager Gabe Kapler had exhausted all of his position players on the bench. Braves manager Brian Snitker intentionally walked Donovan Solano to load the bases with one out, knowing the pitcher’s spot was up next and San Francisco was out of hitters.
Aware that the Los Angeles Dodgers already had fallen at Cincinnati and that a win would double their advantage in the NL West, the Giants (96-52) were one strike from defeat and a third straight loss before Solano homered off Braves closer Will Smith in the ninth.
“My first time,” Solano gushed of his ninth-inning heroics minutes after the win. “It’s been a blessed season for me and my teammates. Every day it’s a different guy. There’s something special this year, so we have to keep going.”
The Braves have lost three in a row, one shy of their longest skid of the season. They are two games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. The Giants lead the second-place Dodgers by two games in the NL West.
The Giants are expected to activate left-hander Alex Wood (10-4, 4.08 ERA) off the injured list to start Saturday’s game against one of his former teams.
Wood, who tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after a 3-2 win in New York against the Mets on Aug. 26, will make his first start in 23 days.
Wood, who pitched for Atlanta from 2013-15, is slated for his seventh career start against the Braves. He has a 3-3 record with a 4.26 ERA against them.
The Braves (76-69) are expected to counter with right-hander Charlie Morton (13-5, 3.49), who has a 4-4 record with a 2.48 ERA in 13 career starts against the Giants.
Morton, 37, will pitch for the second time since signing a one-year, $20 million contract extension for next season.
Batterymate Travis d’Arnaud recognizes Morton as the right man in the right spot down the stretch for Atlanta.
“I don’t think any moment is too big for him,” d’Arnaud said. “Whenever we need him, he always shows up.”
Wood and Morton did not pitch when the Braves won two of three at home over the Giants last month.
A three-run homer by d’Arnaud in the ninth inning gave Atlanta a 5-4 lead before Solano’s blast forged a tie. The Braves went on to fall in extra innings, dropping their mark to 4-9 in such games. The Giants, meanwhile, improved to 9-7.
–Field Level Media