MLB LOOK AHEAD

Youthful Braves open series with skidding Giants

The Sports Xchange

September 09, 2018 at 11:31 pm.

SAN FRANCISCO — One of baseball’s best collections of young hitters goes head-to-head with one of the National League’s best young starting pitchers when the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants begin a three-game series Monday night.

The Braves flew into San Francisco on Sunday night on a high, having rallied for six runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat Arizona 9-5 and take three of four in a battle of playoff hopefuls.

The win allowed Atlanta (79-64) to move 4 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia (74-68) in the National League East. Those two still have seven head-to-head meetings remaining.

While the Braves continue a seven-game trip with three in San Francisco, the Phillies will be hosting the Washington Nationals for three games.

Thanks in large part to 20-year-olds Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, the Braves will take the field Monday as the second-ranked team in the NL in scoring and batting average.

They will be up against Giants 26-year-old Dereck Rodriguez (6-2, 2.41), who ranks fifth in the NL among all pitchers with 15 or more starts in ERA (2.41) and tied for sixth in winning percentage (6-2, .750).

Like the Giants, who have lost eight in a row, Rodriguez has had a tough time getting wins of late. He has one loss and two no-decisions to show for his last three starts, during which he has given up just six runs and 14 hits in 17 innings against Texas, Arizona and Colorado.

San Francisco’s losing streak is its longest since another eight-game skid in April 2015.

Things were different in early May, when the Giants won three straight games at Atlanta. Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria and Alen Hanson contributed home runs to the 9-4, 11-2 and 4-3 victories.

Rodriguez, a rookie, did not pitch in the series and has never faced the Braves.

Left-hander Sean Newcomb (11-8, 3.92) is scheduled to oppose Rodriguez in the series opener. He also did not pitch in the games in Atlanta.

The 25-year-old has struggled of late, getting roughed up for 35 hits and 21 runs in 23 2/3 innings in his last five starts. He’s 1-3 in those games and the Braves are 2-3.

Newcomb has faced the Giants just once in his career, posting a no-decision in a 5-3 win last June in which he limited the Giants to one run and three hits for six innings.

He will be seeing a Giants team this time around that suffered the unfortunate distinction of getting swept in Milwaukee despite out-hitting the Brewers in all three games. That hadn’t happened to the Giants since a 2009 series against San Diego.

The Braves, meanwhile, have gone 4-0-2 in their last six road series.

They managed to avoid splitting four at Arizona by virtue of their six-run ninth, which featured a go-ahead home run by Ender Inciarte and lead-padding homers by Lucas Duda and Johan Camargo.

The home run by the 24-year-old Camargo was his 18th of the season, and Acuna earlier hit his 25th.

The homers were the 78th and 79th of the season by Braves players 25-and-under. The Giants have 16.

 

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