Giants aim to get healthy, regain momentum

Giants aim to get healthy, regain momentum

ATLANTA -- The Giants don't have to change their National League Division Series performance much, except collect a few more hits with runners in scoring position.

They've mostly duplicated the pattern that earned them a 92-70 record and the NL West title this season. They've received the excellent starting pitching that paced them to a Major League-best 3.36 ERA. They've scored first, a situation in which they finished 63-19 this year. And, in Friday's Game 2, they even scored four runs, a total they reached or exceeded while posting a remarkable 69-12 mark.

But that hasn't been enough. The Giants would have avoided their 5-4, 11-inning loss in Game 2 to the Atlanta Braves had they capitalized on more scoring opportunities. And they provided Tim Lincecum with the bare minimum of support, one run, in Game 1.

"We've definitely got to step up the offense," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "We're not going to steal a lot of bags. We're not going to do a lot of bombing, which we have lately. But we're going to have to get guys on, bunt 'em over, get a big hit. It's funny, throughout the season, we've scored a lot of runs. We get up early, 3-0, 4-0 in the second, and then we relax and everybody starts hitting."

The opposite occurred in Game 2, however, when the Giants led, 4-0, after two innings and went scoreless for the next nine.

Taking their act on the road against the Atlanta Braves shouldn't hamper the Giants, either. San Francisco finished 43-38 away from home, its first winning road mark since 2004. Granted, the Giants endured one of their worst road series here, losing three of four to the Braves from Aug. 5-8. But they won their last five road series and recorded an 11-5 mark in that stretch.

The true test of the resilience the Giants said they needed awaits them between the foul lines in Sunday's Game 3. But, for what it's worth, they seemed composed upon arriving at Turner Field for a brief workout Saturday. Asked to describe the team's mood during their charter flight here, Game 3 starter Jonathan Sanchez said, "Same thing we do every day. Go on the plane, play games and just joke around. Relax and watch TV."

The Giants' potential health issues didn't mushroom into genuine problems, which made relaxing easier.

Catcher Buster Posey said that he felt fine one day after colliding with third baseman Pablo Sandoval as they pursued Jason Heyward's foul popup. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Posey, who complained of bruised ribs after Friday's game, had nothing worse than "general soreness."

Sandoval's fine, too. He even lingered for about five minutes after the workout to field slow rollers -- the type of grounder that caused him to make a poor throw to first base in Friday's eighth inning, which accounted for one of Atlanta's three runs that tied the game.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez didn't participate in the workout, but insisted that he'll play Sunday, sore right hand and all.

"Yeah, I'll be fine," said Sanchez, who instead underwent treatment in the wake of being hit by a Kyle Farnsworth pitch.

"I was hoping it wasn't broken and thank God it wasn't. It was just really sore," said Sanchez, who added that he managed to grip a bat. Bochy said that he actually tried swinging.

The Giants' starter for Monday's Game 4 remains undecided, though it's a safe assumption that if they're trailing in the series, 2-1, Bochy will use Lincecum on three days' rest, one fewer than usual. Should the Giants own a 2-1 lead, Madison Bumgarner would probably start Game 4.

Bochy's selection might have nothing to do with Game 3's result. He may simply want to get Lincecum back on the mound as soon as possible after his two-hit, 14-strikeout effort in Game 1. Bochy said that he has no concerns about Lincecum's ability to thrive on short rest, explaining, "This kid's arm is healthy. He's never had any issues there."

Bochy indicated that he could name the Game 4 starter before Sunday's first pitch. But he quickly added that he might wait until after the game, in case he has to exhaust the bullpen -- that is, in case he has to use Bumgarner.

One day after proclaiming that the lineup he used in the first two NLDS games probably will remain constant, Bochy hinted that Mike Fontenot could join the lineup to replace Sandoval.

"That was discussed," Bochy acknowledged.

Fontenot also is a possible replacement at second base if Sanchez doesn't play.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.