Sean Manaea

What we learned as Braves overpower Giants' bullpen in loss

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are hanging on in the National League Wild Card race for dear life and the 7-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday at Oracle Park certainly didn't help their standing.

San Francisco went with a bullpen game and Giants manager Gabe Kapler sent Ryan Walker (1 2/3 IP, H, ER, 2 BB) to the mound against Braves lefty Max Fried (W, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K).

Sean Manaea held Atlanta's historic lineup in check and Wilmer Flores delivered another clutch home run, but the Giants were unable to bounce back from Friday's series-opening loss.

Here are three observations from the Giants' loss to the Braves.

The long man

After a rough start to the 2023 season, Manaea has pitched much better in the second half. Entering Saturday's game, the veteran lefty boasted a 2.04 ERA over his last seven outings and his 28.4 percent strikeout rate this season is a career-best.

Manaea took over as the bulk innings arm after opener Ryan Walker with two outs in the top of the second inning and pitched relatively well, allowing two earned runs and five hits over 3 2/3 innings pitched while striking out five Braves hitters and walking two.

The Braves ran his pitch count up to 74 pitches and scored both of their runs on a Matt Olson RBI single in the third and a solo homer off the bat of Austin Riley in the fifth.

All things considered, against the best lineup in baseball, Manaea did his job and kept the Giants in the game.

Going with the Flo

Flores far and away has been the Giants' best hitter this season and could finish the 2023 campaign as the first San Francisco hitter since former catcher Bust Posey to lead the team in home runs and bat over .300 on the season.

As a struggling Giants offense looked for any spark it could get against Fried, Flores came through with a game-tying two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the third. His 19th blast of the season tied a career-high set in 2022.

If healthy, Flores almost certainly will eclipse the 20-home-run mark for the first time in his career this season and continue to be one of the best hitters in baseball since the All-Star break.

Since June 1, Flores has reached base safely in 47 of the 54 games he's played during that stretch and is batting .348/.416/.624 with 12 homers and 30 RBI. His 1.039 OPS since then is the fourth-highest in baseball behind the Angels' Shohei Ohtani (1.226), Rangers' Corey Seager (1.123) and the Dodgers' Mookie Betts (1.118).

Swiper, no swiping

Despite rookie catcher Patrick Bailey's eye-popping success throwing out runners behind the plate, opposing teams have not struggled to steal bases against the Giants this season.

Prior to Saturday's game, San Francisco allowed 0.75 stolen bases per game, which ranks 21st in the league. For reference, both starting pitcher Logan Webb (13) and closer Camilo Doval (12) have allowed the 14th- and 19th most stolen bases among NL pitchers.

The Braves had the fourth-most steals (107) in the league prior to Saturday's game and their speed on the bases helped generate offense against Giants pitchers.

After outfielder Michael Harris II swiped two bags in Friday's loss, Eddie Rosario and Ronald Acuña Jr. each stole a base on Saturday. Acuña's 59th stolen base in the top of the third directly led to the Braves' second run.

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