Sole possession of first place in the National League East will be at stake Sunday afternoon when the Atlanta Braves attempt to avoid a sweep by the host San Francisco Giants in their three-game series.
The Braves (76-70), who led the East by 4 1/2 games just five days ago, saw their advantage narrowed to one game when they were beaten 2-0 by the Giants on Saturday night after the second-place Philadelphia Phillies (76-72) had defeated the New York Mets 5-3.
A fifth straight Braves loss in the afternoon coupled with a fifth consecutive Phillies win at night over the Mets on Sunday would leave the teams in a virtual tie, separated by just percentage points, atop the East.
“We’re still in a good spot,” veteran Atlanta pitcher Charlie Morton said. “This (type of slump) is going to happen. We’re going to play really good baseball. Now we just got to right the ship.”
The Giants (97-52), meanwhile, lowered their magic number for clinching the NL West to 12 with Saturday’s win, which came well after the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers (95-54) had won at Cincinnati.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler credited his defense afterward.
“We want to play a crisp, clean game every day. This is as clean as it gets,” he gushed. “The defense won the game for us. This is how the various components of our team depend on each other. The pitching was as good as it was because of the defense. That creates some confidence and then two runs is enough for us.”
The Giants will shoot for a third straight win with right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (12-6, 3.24 ERA) on the mound.
The 31-year-old has gone 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three September starts after lasting just three innings, allowing three runs, in a 9-0 loss at Atlanta on Aug. 29. Jorge Soler and Austin Riley homered off DeSclafani in that game.
The veteran has gone 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA in six career starts against the Braves.
DeSclafani once again will be working without much of a safety net, with the Giants having been forced to turn Saturday’s win into basically a bullpen game as starter Alex Wood, coming off a COVID illness, was able to go just three innings. He struck out four and didn’t allow a hit.
He was followed to the mound by six relievers, all of whom worked one inning, including Dominic Leone, whose last six outings have seen him serve as the Giants’ first pitcher three times and their last twice. He picked up his second save of the season.
Even with Wood’s return, the club is without injured starter Johnny Cueto (right elbow strain) and injured closer Jake McGee (right oblique strain), causing Kapler to scramble both at the start and end of games.
The Braves have scheduled left-hander Max Fried (11-7, 3.47) for the crucial start.
The 27-year-old has gone unbeaten in his past eight starts, although the most recent four have been no-decisions. The latter run began in a 6-5 home win over the Giants last month in which he allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings and gave up a two-run homer to Buster Posey.
Fried is 2-0 in his career against the Giants with a 2.79 ERA in four games, including three starts.
–Field Level Media