published Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Atlanta Braves nip San Francisco Giants, 3-2

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36) is shown during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Atlanta.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36) is shown during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Atlanta.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATLANTA — Fredi Gonzalez said the Atlanta Braves’ win Thursday afternoon could prove to be their biggest of the season.

The Braves’ manager obviously was pleased his team avoided being swept by the San Francisco Giants, but he was particularly encouraged by the way Atlanta regained some momentum after a tough loss.

Freddie Freeman and David Ross hit home runs and Michael Bourn had an RBI triple for the team’s only other hit in Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Giants. The Braves fell apart late in Wednesday night’s 9-4 loss in 11 innings to San Francisco but head to Washington on a positive note for a four-game series against the leaders of the National League East.

“You lose two in a row after winning seven and it feels like you’ll never win again,” Gonzalez said, referring to the team’s season-best winning streak that ended with two losses to the Giants.

“Big win,” Gonzalez said. “It really is a big win after losing that game last night in extra innings and not leaving here until almost 2 in the morning. Coming back on short rest is really huge and could be the biggest win for us this year, depending on how that weekend [at Washington] goes.”

The Braves began the day second in the NL East, 4 1/2 games behind the Nationals.

Starting pitcher Tim Hudson (8-4) helped an Atlanta bullpen that was drained Wednesday night. He gave up eight hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings to outpitch Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Freeman hit his 13th homer in the second inning. Bourn’s triple in the third gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead.

Ross pushed that to 3-1 with his homer in the fourth.

“Obviously we made those three hits count,” Hudson said.

The Giants were denied their first sweep at Turner Field. They haven’t swept a series of at least three games in Atlanta since 1988 at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

The West-leading Giants’ five-game winning streak ended with their first loss since the All-Star break. They began the day a season-best three games ahead of the second-place Dodgers and settled for winning two of three against the Braves.

“You take it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s what you try to do— take series. It’s hard to do. Sure, it’s a tough loss, with the pitching we had. But you take it.”

The Giants had nine hits but stranded eight baserunners.

“We couldn’t get a timely hit,” Bochy said. “That was the difference in the game.”

Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth inning for his NL-leading 28th save.

Hudson has pitched at least six innings in 11 of his 15 starts.

“It was a lot of fun catching him,” Ross said. “He’s our horse and we need him pitching well.”

Bumgarner (11-6) couldn’t extend his streak of wins in seven straight decisions despite his strong seven innings. He had eight strikeouts and no walks in his first loss since May 26. He fell to 4-5 away from San Francisco.

“I didn’t give up a lot of hits today, so I felt good,” Bumgarner said. “The homers killed me.”

Freeman’s 13th homer gave him a 10-game hitting streak.

“Freddie’s homer I thought was much bigger than mine,” Ross said. “Coming off last night, it was nice to get the momentum back early in the game.”

The Braves scored an unearned run off Bumgarner in the third when Paul Janish reached on third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s fielding error and scored on Bourn’s triple.

Sandoval led off the second with a single and scored on a single by Emmanuel Burris. The Giants didn’t score another run until the eighth when Melky Cabrera tripled and scored on Buster Posey’s fly to center, cutting Atlanta’s lead to 3-2.

The Braves are listing Ben Sheets as the starting pitcher in the 1 p.m. game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Washington. Randall Delgado will be recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to start the 7 p.m. game. Tommy Hanson faces the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg tonight in a matchup of 10-game winners.

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