San Francisco Giants 9, Atlanta Braves 4, 11 innings: Wild, wacky night in Atlanta

BOX SCORE

By the time Wednesday’s wild game in Atlanta ended, I needed to be reminded that the Giants have a five-game winning streak, their longest winning streak of the 2012 season.

That’s because the Giants seem to lose, then win, then lose, then win this game so many times on Wednesday that it was hard to remember they are still riding a hot streak.

Here is a rundown of Wednesday’s weirdness:

MINOR SETBACK: Tim Lincecum opened the night with the second-worst ERA by a starting pitcher in the NL with qualifying innings. He finished the night with the worst. That’s because the Giants could only manage one run in six innings off Mike Minor, who entered the game with 5.97 ERA and finished the game with 5.69 ERA.

GOT MELK? The Braves don’t anymore. But the Giants do. His solo home run in the sixth tied the game at 1-1. He finished 2 for 5 for his 42nd multi-hit game of the season.

RUNS FOR RYAN? Ryan Vogelsong pitched his ninth quality start of the season in which he either took a no-decision or was saddled with a loss. He’s 7-4, but really should have 11 or 12 wins by now.

RUNNING FOR BUSTER: Manager Bruce Bochy decided to pinch-run for Buster Posey after Posey had a lead-off single in the top of the ninth. Gregor Blanco almost got picked off several times by Craig Kimbrel before Pablo Sandoval hit into double play. Pulling Posey in a 1-1 game in the ninth makes sense only if Bochy plans to start Posey in Thursday’s day game. If Posey sits, the move made little sense.

ESCAPE ACT IN NINTH: Two balls that clanked of Giants gloves in the ninth almost allowed the Braves to win without the benefit of a hit. Sergio Romo hit Dan Uggla with one out. Chipper Jones hit a slow roller to Ryan Theriot, who flubbed the ball. Both Uggla and Jones moved up 90 feet when a Romo pitch clanked off Eli Whiteside’s glove. It was ruled a wild pitch, but could have easily been a passed ball. After Romo fanned Paul Janish, Javier Lopez intentionally walked Tyler Pastornicky to load the bases, then struck out Michael Bourn in a nine-pitch battle to end the inning.

BOCHY’S MOVE-A-RAMA: By this point in the game, Bochy had thinned out his bench. He had Nate Schierholtz bat for Vogelsong in the seventh; Blanco stayed in the game and played center when he ran for Posey, so then Posey and Angel Pagan were out of the game, with Whiteside replacing Posey at catcher. Brandon Crawford entered the game in a double switch when Lopez relieved Romo in the ninth, and Sandoval was out of the game. In the 10th, when the Giants sent eight batters to the plate, Emmanuel Burriss hit for Lopez, exhausting the last of the available position players. Bochy ended up using 20 of 24 available players (Thursday’s starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner was sent back to the team hotel to prepare for his mid-day start) and the skipper was even contemplating having Matt Cain play right field if the game lingered on.

TWO-RUN RALLY IN TENTH: Joaquin Arias got things going with a one-out triple. After Brandon Crawford was intentionally walked — setting up a potential inning-ending double play, Justin Christian hit a swinging bunt that scored Arias. When Chipper Jones’ lob home to get Arias was errant, Crawford went to third. After a Ryan Theriot walk, Cabrera blooped a single to score Crawford. With a chance to add on, Blanco struck out and Burriss hit a liner to Jones.

WOE IS SANTIAGO: Given a two-run lead, Santiago Casilla appeared headed to an easy save after quickly erasing Martin Prado and Jason Heyward. But then he gave up a double to Freddie Freeman, then a two-run home run to Brian McCann. Bochy said he would talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about replacing Casilla as the team’s closer. Bochy suggested that when he gets two outs, Casilla often stops pitching and just tries to throw balls past hitters. This time, the Braves were ready.

WELCOME BACK WHITEY: Eli Whiteside had an interesting day. It started with him flying from Las Vegas to Atlanta as he was called up from Triple-A to replace Hector Sanchez on the active roster. He arrived at the stadium before game time only because the game was delay almost 90 minutes by rain. Whiteside looked like he might be the goat when a pitch clanked off his glove in the ninth. But then he helped start a six-run rally in the 11th when he hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and alertly advanced to second on a wild pitch.

BLASTS BY BENCH PLAYERS: We’ve mentioned how the Giants’ bench is a weak spot. But two players not in the starting lineup had two BIG hits. First with two one and one out, Brandon Crawford fouled a ball off his foot. He hobbled around as the team trainer came out to look at him. Coming out of the game was not an option as their were no position players left on the bench. On the next pitch, Crawford belted a three-run home run into right for a 6-3 lead. Christian then reached on an error. After Theriot grounded out, advancing Christian, the Braves intentionally walked Cabrera. Blanco came up with two on and two out and Matt Cain on deck to hit for Casilla. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow were talking how the Braves would walk Blanco to pitch to Cain. But then they didn’t and Blanco spanked another three-run shot into the right-field bleachers for a 9-3 lead.

Other notes:

  • The win clinched the Giants’ first series win in Atlanta since 2008. It’s only their second series win at Turner Field since it opened 16 years ago.
  • If the Giants win Thursday, it will be their first series sweep in Atlanta since 1988.
  • The victory allowed the Giants to maintain their three-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.
    The Giants are now 6-1 in extra-inning games.

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