SAN FRANCISCO — For the second Sunday in a row, the San Francisco Giants took the field against the Atlanta Braves trying to avoid being swept.
Different city, different score, same positive result for the Giants.
Patrick Bailey hit a tiebreaking three-run double in the fifth inning, fellow rookie Casey Schmitt hit his first home run in 3 1/2 months, and the Giants beat the Braves 8-5 to avoid a three-game sweep at Oracle Park.
The Giants (67-63) won for just the sixth time in their last 20 games to slow a slide that has dropped them out of a National League wild-card position in the playoff race after they once held the top spot. They beat the Braves a week after their 4-3 victory in Atlanta kept them from being swept during a three-game series at Truist Park.
Atlanta's Marcell Ozuna hit his 29th home run of the season to break a tie with Ronald Acuña Jr. for second-most homers on the team behind Matt Olson (30).
The Braves (84-45) had won four in a row and 14 of 18 games coming into Sunday, but even with the loss, they have the best record in Major League Baseball with less than six weeks remaining in the regular season. The American League's Baltimore Orioles are second at 81-49.
In the NL East, Atlanta has a 12 1/2-game lead over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies, who have won three straight. The Braves are seeking their sixth straight title in the division.
San Francisco reliever Scott Alexander (7-2) pitched 1 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Tyler Rogers and Taylor Rogers got the next seven outs, and Camilo Doval pitched a perfect ninth for his 34th save of the year, snapping a streak of four consecutive blown chances.
The Braves trailed 2-0 before taking the lead in the fifth on Travis d'Arnaud's two-run single against Tristan Beck and Nicky Lopez's go-ahead RBI single against Alexander. Beck had retired the first 12 Atlanta hitters in his first MLB start before walking Olson to start the inning.
Luis Matos doubled against Atlanta rookie starter Jared Shuster (4-3) with one out in the bottom of the fifth. After Collin McHugh came on one out later with two runners on, Wilmer Flores and J.D. Davis drew walks to force in the tying run. Bailey then ripped a double past Olson at first base that emptied the bags to give the Giants a 6-3 lead.
"That hit was pretty cathartic because we just haven't gotten that one blow that changes the score in a big way for us," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. "It's been a while since we cleared the bases with a double. It was a big deal. It was kind of a relief to everybody in the dugout."
Austin Slater and Thairo Estrada added RBI hits for the Giants in the sixth. Estrada bunted for his single and made several stellar plays in the field to back his words from a pregame meeting that he called to remind everyone to play team baseball and not let one discouraging moment in a game fester.
One heads-up Estrada move — he raced a long way to cover first base on an Acuña groundball when neither first baseman J.D. Davis nor the pitcher, Alexander, could beat Acuña to the bag — helped the Giants turn an unusual 3-1-4-2 double play that prevented Atlanta from expanding a three-run fifth.
"He made some amazing plays out there at second base that kept us in the game," Beck said. "He's a guy I look up to on this team, and when he speaks, it carries a lot of weight. I loved the message, and we went out there and just delivered. I think it's a different game if Thairo's not playing as hard out there at second."
Atlanta's 2-1 series showing in San Francisco was the start of a 10-game trip out West without a day off, and Braves manager Brian Snitker ran the game with one eye toward three games against the Colorado Rockies and four against Los Angeles Dodgers, as he explained when asked why he left McHugh in the game long enough to walk four batters and allow four runs.
"We've got a rough week ahead of us," Snitker said. "We didn't really want to beat up any of those other guys chasing a win."
Atlanta got good news on the injury front, though, as second baseman Ozzie Albies could return from a left hamstring strain as soon as Monday night's series opener in Denver. Albies has been on the injured list since Aug. 15, retroactive to Aug. 14.
Atlanta right-hander Bryce Elder (10-4, 3.39 ERA) will start on the mound Monday, when the Rockies will counter with left-hander Austin Gomber (9-9, 5.48).