Maholm roughed up in Braves' loss to Giants

J. Upton's defensive miscues help fuel four-run fifth inning

Maholm roughed up in Braves' loss to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Braves won the opener of their current four-game series against the Giants, it appeared they were starting to click on all cylinders. But they have since seen their offense silenced and their two most seasoned starting pitchers humbled.

Less than 24 hours after Tim Hudson experienced a rash of fourth-inning misfortune, Paul Maholm was burdened by a couple of fifth-inning defensive miscues. This helped the Giants provide a dominant Madison Bumgarner more than enough support in Saturday's 10-1 win over the Braves at AT&T Park.

"I didn't make a few pitches and we didn't make a few plays," Maholm said. "We weren't able to get anything on the board. They played better today."

There were a number of dejected faces seen in the Braves clubhouse after Bumgarner recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts and allowed just four hits over seven innings. But the frustration extended to the defensive mistakes that helped the Giants turn a one-run fifth-inning advantage into a lopsided victory.

"They have as good a shot as anybody of playing October baseball," Bumgarner said. "When you play a team like that, you want to play your best baseball, too."

The Braves have played anything but their best baseball while totaling three runs and seeing their starting pitchers exit before the end of the fifth inning in the past two games. Entering Friday, their offense had scored at least five runs in seven consecutive games and their starting pitchers had lasted at least seven innings in seven of the previous eight games.

With Jason Heyward still at least a few days away from coming off the disabled list, the Braves opted to put Evan Gattis in left field and move Justin Upton to right field, a position he played each of the previous seven seasons with the D-backs. This arrangement did not prove costly earlier this week in Cincinnati's cozy outfield.

But San Francisco's more cavernous outfield proved much more challenging for both corner outfielders. Playing his fourth game as an outfielder and first since Wednesday, Gattis showed his inexperience while turning a Gregor Blanco liner into an RBI triple in the four-run eighth inning. As for Upton, he felt he made two mental errors that led to a pair of defensive mistakes in the four-run fifth inning.

"It's definitely a difficult outfield," Upton said. "You definitely have to make a decision pre-pitch how aggressive you want to be. Hopefully, you're right."

Upton proved to be wrong when he aggressively approached Marco Scutaro's sinking liner in right field with one out in the fifth. The resulting triple fueled an inning that marked the end for Maholm, who was charged with six earned runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.

"From the jump, I should have played that ball to keep the double play intact," Upton said. "That was an error on my behalf. I was too aggressive with that ball. I still thought I had a chance to catch it. It just got under my glove when I reached for it."

After Pablo Sandoval was hit by a pitch, Buster Posey followed with an RBI double that Upton missed as he jumped and reached to grab it along the right-field warning track. Upton said he should have been playing deeper in right field on the 2-0 pitch that prompted Posey's aggressive swing.

"I was just too shallow and that ball carried and carried," Upton said.

Braves bench coach Carlos Tosca, who served as the Braves' manager while Fredi Gonzalez attended his daughter's high school graduation, opted to intentionally walk Hunter Pence to load the bases. He then brought in right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin with the hope that he could keep the deficit at two runs by inducing a ground ball.

The Giants countered by pinch-hitting the left-handed Blanco, who delivered the crushing blow to his former team with a three-run double to the right-center-field gap. The double is the only hit Gearrin has allowed in 18 at-bats against left-handed hitters this year.

"When you bring Cory in the game, you're looking for a ground ball," Tosca said. "That's his job, to get a ground ball. He elevated that ball to Blanco, and he didn't miss it."

While the fifth inning doomed him, Maholm was not at his best as he consistently fell behind hitters through the first four innings. Pablo Sandoval gave the Giants a lead with his first-inning solo home run and Brandon Crawford took advantage of two walks with a two-out fourth-inning single that increased the Giants' lead to 2-0.

"Pauly usually goes through the lineup rather quickly with a limited amount of pitches," Tosca said. "His pitch count was up a little bit with that amount of innings. He always competes. But he wasn't the Maholm we're used to knowing."

The early support was more than enough for Bumgarner, who retired the first 11 batters he faced before Upton recorded an infield single with two outs in the fourth inning. The only run Bumgarner allowed came after Gattis opened the fifth inning with a double and scored on Maholm's two-out RBI single to left field.

"[Bumgarner] is a tough at-bat," Upton said. "He had it locked in today and we weren't able to get to him."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.