Lowry stellar in squeaker over Braves

Lowry stellar in squeaker over Braves

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds' absence from the Giants' lineup didn't mean an absence of drama Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

Belying their last-place status in the National League West, the Giants played a taut thriller, edging the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, on stifling pitching by Noah Lowry and Brad Hennessey.

After Lowry ended his 100th Major League pitching appearance by retiring Edgar Renteria, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones consecutively in the eighth inning, Hennessey recovered from Jeff Francoeur's leadoff double in the ninth to record his seventh save.

Lowry's longevity did more than just end the Giants' three-game losing streak. He replenished the bullpen's strength. San Francisco's bullpen accumulated 14 1/3 innings in that trio of games, including the last seven in Tuesday's 13-inning affair. Four different relievers -- Kevin Correia, Jack Taschner, Jonathan Sanchez and Randy Messenger -- worked stints of two innings or more in this stretch. Lowry kept them lounging in the duguot.

Although Lowry benefited richly from the three double-play grounders he induced, he saved his most impressive work for his final inning by relying on one of pitching's most basic elements -- the strikeout.

Two innings after Rich Aurilia's homer broke a 1-1 tie, Yunel Escobar's bloop single to right field opened Atlanta's eighth. Awaiting Lowry was the heart of the Braves' order.

Lowry struck out Renteria on three pitches, finishing off the .335 hitter with a slider.

"I wanted to stay out of the middle of the plate," Lowry replied when asked about his approach to Renteria. When a couple of reporters chuckled at Lowry's obvious-sounding answer, he added, "Seriously. You don't want to be too fine, but at the same time you don't want to give him a good pitch to hit. We tried to stay aggressive but we stayed aggressive on the corners. I felt like I had my good location, so I felt like I could stay in that mode with them at that point."

Next came switch-hitting Chipper Jones, who brought a .347 average to the plate. He also fanned on three pitches. Lowry threw a changeup inside to end the confrontation.

"It's not a pitch I usually throw [to right-handers]," Lowry said. "But at that point, it was his fourth at-bat and he had seen everything that I had to offer. I really didn't want to fall into a pattern with him."

Andruw Jones stepped in the batter's box looking for his 20th home run, but he didn't get it as Lowry coaxed a foul popup to first base from him.

"At that point, it's his game, and he had the confidence and stamina to get through that inning," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Lowry appreciated Bochy's support.

"He could have taken me out at that point," Lowry said, noting that Vinnie Chulk was warming up in the bullpen. "He's shown that confidence in me all year. I tried to have a good inning to show him down the road that I'm ready to go out there and fight even when my pitch count might be high."

Aurilia admired the intelligence Lowry displayed on the mound.

"People forget sometimes that Noah wasn't drafted long ago," Aurilia said. "A lot of his learning has gone on up here. He's maturing as a pitcher."

Hennessey then continued his maturation as a reliever. The specter of Armando Benitez enveloped AT&T Park after Francoeur found the right-center-field gap. Matt Diaz's groundout to first, which moved Francoeur to third base, eased the pressure upon the Giants only slightly.

But Hennessey mirrored Lowry with swinging strikeouts of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson, the latter on a full count. The remnants of the paid crowd of 42,834 roared, exactly as if they had just witnessed a Bonds home run.

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