Surging Bumgarner, Giants try to hand Braves another loss

Surging left-hander Madison Bumgarner hopes to pitch the San Francisco Giants to a season-high sixth straight victory on Saturday afternoon in the third contest of a four-game series with the struggling Atlanta Braves.

Bumgarner has logged eight straight quality starts and is 14-7 with a 2.83 earned run average in 25 starts this season. He has won three of his past four outings, giving up five runs over that time.

The 23-year-old hurled a complete-game, one-run effort to beat the Washington Nationals on Aug. 14, then logged eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball to best the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 on Monday. He did not walk a batter and struck out 10.

"I had to be on my game 100 percent and make pitches," Bumgarner said. "The defense played good behind me and we had a couple of balls fall our way."

Bumgarner holds an excellent 8-1 mark at home this season to go along with a 1.87 ERA in 11 outings. He hopes that works to his advantage today as he goes for his first win over the Braves, who he is 0-2 against in three starts with a 3.78 ERA. That includes a loss at Atlanta on July 19 in which he gave up two runs over seven innings while fanning eight.

The Braves counter with their own young lefty in Mike Minor, who has lost three straight starts. Atlanta has been outscored 12-1 in that span and Minor hasn't won since July 28.

The 24-year-old threw seven innings of one-run ball on Sunday versus the Dodgers, but took a 5-0 loss and fell to 6-10 with a 4.74 ERA in 23 starts this season.

Minor faced the Giants for the second time in his career on July 18 at home and yielded a run over six innings while striking out seven in a no-decision.

The Giants have taken the first two games of this series and maintained a three-game lead over the Dodgers for first place in the NL West with a 5-3 win over the Braves on Friday.

Angel Pagan sparked the offense with four hits, finishing a homer shy of a cycle, and scored twice while also knocking in a run. Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey added an RBI apiece for the Giants, who won their fifth straight contest to match a season high and are 15-6 over their last 21.

"He's definitely been our spark plug," winning starter Ryan Vogelsong said of Pagan. "It's been fun to watch."

Ben Sheets gave up four runs on nine hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings to absorb the loss.

"I hate the way I pitched," Sheets lamented. "I feel like I made some good pitches, just didn't put anybody away."

Freddie Freeman hit two homers and Jason Heyward also went deep, but the Braves lost for the sixth time in their last seven games. However, they remained 6 1/2 games back of the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, who also lost on Friday.

The Giants have won five of their last seven versus the Braves.