Red-hot Braves present steep challenge for Giants 

click to enlarge Ready to go: The Giants are expected to have Melky Cabrera, coming back from paternity leave, back in the lineup today. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTOS
  • Getty Images file photos
  • Ready to go: The Giants are expected to have Melky Cabrera, coming back from paternity leave, back in the lineup today.

The Giants hope a weekend sweep of the Houston Astros will set the tone for the second half. The Giants stumbled into the All-Star break, losing seven of nine, but holding the Astros to five runs in three games has vaulted San Francisco ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.

A big challenge awaits in Atlanta starting today as the red-hot Braves have won seven straight games.

Atlanta is averaging 6.1 runs per game during its winning streak and scored 21 runs in a three-game weekend sweep of the New York Mets. The Braves were tied for fifth in baseball in runs scored since July 1 with 59 entering Monday. The Giants were tied for fifth in the majors with Pittsburgh in ERA (3.53).

Barry Zito looks for his third win in his past four outings when he starts for the Giants in the series opener against Jair Jurrjens, who is unbeaten since returning from the minor leagues.

Zito did not have his best stuff in his final start before the All-Star break, but the left-hander held Pittsburgh to four runs on seven hits in five innings as the Giants rallied from an early deficit to win 6-5. Zito has won two of his past three starts after losing three outings in a row in mid-June.

Jurrjens impressed in four starts following a two-month minor-league stint to fix his mechanics. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA since returning from the minors, allowing only one homer in 25¹⁄³ innings.

NOTES: Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera leads the majors in hits (122). Cabrera capped his big week by missing Sunday’s game to be in Orlando for the birth of his third child. He is expected to be back in the lineup today. ... In his sixth season with San Francisco, Zito is seeking to finish above .500 for the first time. The left-hander never finished below .500 in seven seasons with Oakland. ... The Braves’ Chipper Jones has hit in 15 of his past 16 games, hitting .400 (24-for-60) in that stretch.

— SportsDirect via Reuters

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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014

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