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SF@ATL: Bumgarner records eight K's over seven frames

ATLANTA -- Due to time zones, efficient pitching and an unusually early starting time of 9:10 a.m. PT, Giants fans in the western U.S. went to lunch on Thursday already knowing that their team had lost to the Atlanta Braves, 3-2.

Nonetheless, San Francisco's legions of supporters should have been able to digest their food easily. The Giants' season-high winning streak ended at five games, but the club accomplished plenty here in three short days.

First-place San Francisco gained a game on second-place Los Angeles in the National League West standings, posted only its second series victory in the 19 it has played at Turner Field since the park opened in 1997 and restored confidence in its ability to perform on the road. Just two weeks ago, the Giants lurched into the All-Star break with a 1-5 showing at Washington and Pittsburgh.

The Giants' starting pitchers, who performed poorly on that trip, displayed their typical stinginess against the Braves, who entered this series averaging six runs per game during a seven-game winning streak. Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner combined to allow three earned runs in 20 innings. That's a tidy 1.35 ERA.

"We have to look at the silver lining," manager Bruce Bochy said after the Giants became the last team in the Major Leagues to lose a game after the All-Star break.

Yet Bochy remained concerned with the Giants' flaws. That's part of his job, after all.

The offense continued to nag Bochy. On Thursday, the Giants out-hit Atlanta, 9-3, which meant little because they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

"Since we got into the second half, we got some wins, but we're not clicking offensively," Bochy said. "We have to do a better job of getting some runners in."

In fairness to the Giants, that's typically a difficult task against Braves starter Tim Hudson (8-4), who's 5-0 in his last eight starts against them. Hudson surrendered eight hits in 7 1/3 innings, but the Giants went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position against him.

"I think that's what makes him that good," said second baseman Emmanuel Burriss, who rapped a second-inning RBI single among his two hits while making only his fourth start in 43 games. "He was moving the ball around, moving his sinker pretty well."

Atlanta catcher David Ross confirmed Burriss' observation about Hudson. "When he gets that little bit of redneck coming out in him, he's really good -- and you can quote me on that," Ross said. "He knows he's a redneck. He's been fighting his sinker being more side to side than normal. He got his depth back today. That's when you know he's good."

Most of the regret the Giants expressed after this brisk two-hour, 21-minute affair involved wasting Bumgarner's strong effort.

"When you get as good of a performance out of Bumgarner as we did, you want to win the game," said catcher Buster Posey, whose eighth-inning sacrifice fly reduced the final margin to a single run.

Bumgarner (11-6) lasted seven innings and yielded only three hits, but each carried impact. Freddie Freeman and Ross homered in the second and fourth innings, respectively. In between, Michael Bourn, who struck out in his other three at-bats, drilled a run-scoring, third-inning triple.

Vulnerability to the long ball has been one of the few blemishes on Bumgarner's season-long performance. He has yielded a team-high 16 homers, including 13 on the road.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the parks," Bumgarner said. "They're hitting pitches that are hitters' pitches. It's not a good pitcher's pitch."

Bumgarner didn't entirely agree with the notion that starters can weather bases-empty home runs as long as they accumulate a suitable number of essential outs.

"If you give up enough, it's still going to hurt you," Bumgarner said.

The Giants' shortcomings at the plate spared Bochy the burden of steering the bullpen through a save opportunity, since Santiago Casilla, who has blown five of his last eight save chances, clearly is no longer the team's sole closer. Though Bochy indicated that he would continue to use Casilla in that role, he hinted that other relievers will receive attempts to preserve late-inning leads. Casilla's 10th-inning lapse on Wednesday, when Brian McCann's two-run homer briefly tied the game, forced Bochy to re-think this issue.

"I'll look at how the [opponent's] order is coming up," Bochy said. "I could see that Casilla had good stuff. ... He was doing a good job until recently. If you have some failure, your confidence can get shaken. He just has to slow it down a little bit and get back to pitching."

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