ATLANTA -- Very little went according to plan for the Giants on Thursday night, but somehow that didn't matter. Scoring in each of the first seven innings, the Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves, 9-3, to avoid a three-game series sweep. The Giants improved to 2-3 on this three-city trip despite accomplishing virtually nothing that manager Bruce Bochy intended before the game.
Bochy installed Rajai Davis and Dave Roberts at the top of the lineup to capitalize on their speed. So the Giants hit a season-high four homers for only the third time. Bengie Molina's three-run homer in the first inning began the torrent. As the Giants approached the 18th game of their 31-game, 30-day stretch, Bochy cited the lingering importance of keeping the bullpen fresh. "We need a couple of decent starts," Bochy said. Tim Lincecum's five-inning outing didn't fit that profile, but Patrick Misch, opening his third stint with the Giants, contributed three perfect innings before Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless ninth. Though the Giants deviated from Bochy's blueprint, their slick execution enabled them to adjust on the fly. Every starting position player except second baseman Ray Durham hit safely. The Giants delivered their homers in the first four innings, then switched to sacrifice flies to account for their scoring, marking the first time since May 9, 2004, against Cincinnati that they amassed three sacrifice flies in a game. They played slick error-free defense, as third baseman Pedro Feliz strengthened his Gold Glove candidacy with a breathtaking sixth-inning play and Davis soared at the center-field wall to rob Andruw Jones of an extra-base hit and possibly a home run for the final out. Thus, Bochy allowed himself to savor this one before the Giants boarded their charter flight to Miami for a four-game series against the Marlins. "That was, without question, one of our better-played games," Bochy said. While losing 39 of their previous 61 games, the last-place Giants have intermittently generated this kind of performance. "We're pretty far [behind] in the race, I understand that," Molina said. "But I don't want anybody to get used to losing." There was no danger of a pedestrian effort from the Giants, given the cast they used. It included rookies Lincecum, Davis, Misch and Daniel Ortmeier, as well as near-rookie Kevin Frandsen, playing in his 121st Major League game. Davis went 2-for-5 and ran all over the field to make seven putouts, besides his game-ending gem; Lincecum (7-3) righted himself after a 35-pitch first inning; Misch thrived despite flying overnight from Fresno; and Ortmeier and Frandsen each homered. "It almost felt like Triple-A all over again, with me and Frandsen and Orty and Mischie," Lincecum said. "These are the guys I came up with, and it was nice to see them have some success." Oddly, the Giants have recorded their two biggest scoring games of this trip -- their 10-3 victory in the nightcap of Monday's doubleheader at Pittsburgh, besides this one -- without Barry Bonds in the lineup. Yet the all-time home run leader influenced San Francisco's triumph by helping Frandsen's plate approach. Frandsen, whose swing has rusted due to sporadic activity, explained that Bonds worked with him between games of the Pittsburgh twin bill and provided helpful advice. Frandsen coyly explained what Bonds imparted. "Stuff that he and I needed to talk about," said Frandsen, who hit a long drive to right field in the second inning before homering in the fourth. "He got me locked in. ... He told me I can hit and I better get myself in position to do it more often." Davis, who proved that he can get in position for almost anything on defense with his remarkable catch in Monday's second game, placed himself expertly again to haul in the ninth-inning drive by Jones, whose nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards demonstrate that he's accustomed to making such plays. "I didn't think it was going to go that far," said Davis, who believed Jones' drive would have cleared the wall, although television replays were inconclusive. "I was thinking I was going to catch it at the wall. But then I kept going, kept going -- gotta get up."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.