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Giants-Braves Series Preview: All fans, brace for impact!

The Giants will face the best team in the National League this weekend. Here’s why it’s okay to just embrace it.

New York Yankees v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

The good news? The San Francisco Giants have not been swept in Atlanta since May 2000.

The bad news? This is the worst team the Giants could be facing right now and it’s exacerbated by the fact that they’ll see them next weekend, too. Six of the Giants’ next nine games against the best team in the entire sport. Atlanta has

  • the most wins of any team (78)
  • the most runs of any team (702)
  • the best run differential of any team (+208)
  • the most powerful lineup (.227 ISO, .501 slugging %)
  • hit more home runs than any other team (232 - 43 more than team #2: the Dodgers)
  • the best hitting group of any team (125 wRC+)
  • the second-best home record in MLB (40-20)
  • the second-best team ERA in the NL (3.82)
  • the MLB leader in strikeouts (Spencer Strider: 217, 14.0 K/9)
  • the best everyday player in MLB (Ronald Acuna Jr.: 6.2 fWAR)
  • the best catcher in the NL (Sean Murphy, 4.2 fWAR)
  • the best third baseman in the NL (Austin Riley, 3.8 fWAR)

Since June 1st, they’re 25-6 at Truist Park. They just swept the Yankees at home, with the last two games of the three-game series being shutouts. The Yankees are 10-16 in their last 26 games and have averaged 3.7 runs per game in that span. The Giants are 10-16 in their last 26 games and have averaged 3.0 runs per game in that span. Am I saying the Giants are the Yankees or at the very least doomed to the same fate as the Yankees at Truist Park? Maybe.

I noted yesterday that during this two-month span that has seen the Giants’ lineup slump to being the worst in the sport, Atlanta’s has averaged 6.7 runs per game. In the series preview for the Rays, I spent a lot of time critiquing and jeering Tampa Bay’s organizational philosophy because I figured the series was too lopsided to meaningfully analyze. This series feels a lot like that one. So, they’re going to annihilate the Giants. Right? Nuke them from orbit. Melt their faces off?

Well... the Giants have lined it up so that their best is facing Atlanta’s best. They’re giving it all they’ve got. It obviously won’t be enough, but the weird thing about Baseball is that sometimes it is. If the terrible Rockies can win a game during a stretch when they shouldn’t just because they hadn’t, then the Giants could steal a game on the road.

The team has it all set up to backstop Alex Cobb in case he continues to stink (5.63 ERA/6.14 FIP in 32 IP since the All-Star break) by having Logan Webb behind him to hopefully pitch 6+ innings and let the bullpen reset for Sunday. But what if Alex Cobb is sharp? What if Logan Webb is sharp? What if the Giants’ lineup explodes for a heap of runs on Sunday and somehow the bullpenning works as designed?

There are many permutations where the Giants are competitive in this series and, of course, given what we’ve seen of late, just as many where they’re simply overwhelmed by Atlanta’s overflowing talent. It almost seems unfair to compare these two teams, because on paper Atlanta is so much better than the Giants from an offensive standpoint that even San Francisco’s slightly better pitching probably doesn’t matter all that much.

Since sweeping the Dodgers in LA, the Giants are 25-25 with a team ERA of 3.97 and team OPS of .628. They are nowhere close to the talent level of the Dodgers or Atlanta and never will be. Both of those teams have deep, long ties to the global baseball “““““labor””””” market with generational relationships that a team like the Giants simply won’t be able to develop without violating international law.

Atlanta’s roster isn’t all homegrown talent — being a safe harbor for the A’s to drop off key personnel has helped them get good and stay good. Sean Murphy is an incredible catcher having a stellar year and Matt Olson has one more home run (43) than Shohei Ohtani. It helps to have excess premium prospects to trade along with financial flexibility. The Giants have the latter but given how far behind they are in an international talent pipeline, probably never the former.

Given that, the Giants will have to hope math + luck will help them survive what will probably be an offensive onslaught from Ronald Acuna Jr. (.347/.459/.546 in the second half) and a pitching barrage that will feature so much stuff that striking out a lot might be the only way to live. We’ve watched enough baseball to know that weird things can happen.

Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves
Where: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
When: Friday (4:20pm PT), Saturday (4:20pm PT), Sunday (10:35am PT)
National broadcasts: SundayMLB Network simulcast

Projected starters

Friday: Alex Cobb vs. Spencer Strider
Saturday: Logan Webb vs. Yonny Chirinos
Sunday: TBA vs. Max Fried

Where they stand


Record: 78-42, 1st in NL East
Run differential: +208, 1st in NL
Postseason standing: +12.5 games ahead of the division
Momentum: 3-game winning streak; 8-2 in their last 10 games


Record: 64-57, 2nd in NL West
Run differential: +12, 6th in the NL
Postseason standing: +1.5 up in Wild Card, 10.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 3-7 in their last 10 games

Atlanta players to watch

The entire starting lineup: They’re all so good. But, here are some other guys besides the obvious:

Kevin Pillar: That’s right. The best hitter on the 2019 Giants is still around. Somehow, he’s stuck with Atlanta all season, but in a supporting role. After a solid first half (.770 OPS), he’s hitting .172/.200/.241 in the second half (30 PA). It looks like he’s starting once a week or so and, wouldn’t you know it, he’s setup to start a game in this series.

Nicky Lopez: It looks like Atlanta got their Freddy Sanchez or Marco Scutaro deal here. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Royals for LHP Taylor Hearn, he didn’t have his first plate appearance with his new team for nine days. BUT, once he started playing he really started hitting. In Atlanta’s 21-3 win in New York against the Mets on August 12th, he went 4-for-6 with a home run and 5 RBI. He had a 3-hit game against the Yankees, too.

Kirby Yates: Atlanta’s bullpen is actually the second-best in the NL behind the Giants’ and it looks like Yates has been the 8th inning guy this month; but otherwise, he like some of the other names in the pen have been really good but have a much higher FIP. Yates, for instance has a 2.87 ERA with a 4.56 FIP. It’s very unlikely the Giants score enough runs to win any of the games of this series, but there will be opportunities against Atlanta’s bullpen if the game is somehow close late.

Giants to watch

Thairo Estrada: I pointed out before that in the month leading up to his hand fracture that the good-enough-to-be-an-All-Star second baseman had actually stopped hitting. From June 6th to July 2nd he hit .217/.294/.371 (.665 OPS) in 109 plate appearances, causing his season OPS to drop from .811 to .761.

He had four hits in his first three games back from the IL, but after the Angels’ series, in his first five games back, he’d still just hit .191/.261/.238 (4-for-21) and his season OPS had fallen to .744. BUT! Since the Angels series ended, in his last 6 games, he’s hit .360/.360/.560 (.920 OPS). That’s 9-for-25 with a home run and 2 doubles. He might be getting his timing back just when the team needs him most.

Michael Conforto: There’s a possibility that the Giants looked at Conforto as a guy they could use against Atlanta specifically. Those old NL East battles leave scars, after all, and as a veteran of a direct rivalry with Atlanta, Conforto seems well-positioned to have a big series. He has a career OPS of just .678 in 93 games (364 PA) against them, but at their new stadium, it’s .792 (158 PA) with 3 home runs, 8 doubles, and 25 walks against 30 strikeouts. He’s also hitting .302/.423/.488 in August (52 PA).

Joc Pederson: His second half has been one to forget: .218/.307/.368 (101 PA) and it’s pretty likely that these are his final 6-8 weeks with the team, but he has hit 4 home runs at Truist.

Logan Webb: In three career starts at Truist, he’s 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 20 IP. That includes 20 strikeouts against just 3 walks. He still has a remarkably bad home/road ERA split of 2.11/4.52, and yet he’s shown that he can wrangle Atlanta’s lineup a bit.

Wilmer Flores: He has faced Spencer Strider three times and struck out all three times; however, with a 15% strikeout rate on the season, the key will be avoiding strikeouts against everyone else. It’s entirely possible he’s exiting the hottest streak of his career (3-for-his-last-20) which could spell really bad news for the Giants’ lineup, and if he’s striking out a bunch against the non-Striders, then we’ll really know.

Prediction time


San Francisco @ Atlanta - How will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Atlanta sweeps
    (78 votes)
  • 41%
    Atlanta doesn’t sweep
    (80 votes)
  • 4%
    Giants sweep
    (9 votes)
  • 13%
    Giants don’t sweep
    (25 votes)
192 votes total Vote Now