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SF@ATL: Crawford powers Giants, cracks two homers

ATLANTA -- Oh, the monotony.

Or, better yet, consistency.

Three matching efforts produced a matchless result for the Giants, who completed a three-game series sweep of the Atlanta Braves with Sunday's 4-1 triumph.

The Giants recorded their first three-game sweep in this city since June 27-29, 1988. They also achieved their initial three-game sweep at Turner Field, which opened in 1997.

"That says a lot about our team," said shortstop Brandon Crawford, who recorded his first career two-homer game to generate most of the Giants' offense.

The victory was the Giants' ninth in their last 10 games and lengthened their winning streak to five. To say that they're in a groove is an understatement.

"We're not thinking about it," left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. "We're just trying to play good ball."

The Giants proved adept at retracing their steps this weekend.

Their starting pitchers each worked six innings and allowed one run, capped by Bumgarner's nine-strikeout effort Sunday. Bumgarner's own throwing error made his run unearned as he ended a personal three-game losing streak. That had to thrill a sizable gathering of his friends and relatives who made the four-hour drive here from his Hickory, N.C., home.

The bullpen concluded each game with three shutout innings. For the series, Giants relievers yielded three hits and walked four.

Home runs continued to account for virtually all of San Francisco's scoring. Crawford's first homer Sunday, which broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning against Braves starter Alex Wood, lengthened the Giants' streak of consecutive games with a homer to 11. That's San Francisco's longest stretch of this kind since Barry Bonds and company homered in 14 games in a row from July 28-Aug. 13, 2002. When a reporter suggested that the Giants must broaden their offense with base hits at some juncture, catcher Buster Posey said, "Singles and doubles, then a homer. How about that?"

Crawford, whose homer off Wood fattened his batting average against left-handers to .438 (14-for-32), padded San Francisco's lead in the eighth inning by connecting off right-hander Jordan Walden after Brandon Hicks drew a one-out walk. The Giants welcomed the variety provided by Crawford, since each of their previous 10 homers came with the bases empty.

Crawford connected with Walden's 2-1 fastball one pitch after his checked swing was ruled a swinging strike by third-base umpire Clint Fagan. Obviously, that call didn't disturb Crawford.

"I didn't think I went [around]. [Fagan] had a different view, I guess," Crawford said. "I guess I'm kind of glad I went around, though. It would have been a 3-0 count and I probably would have had the 'take' sign."

The Giants relied on home runs so excessively -- and sustained such little offense otherwise -- that they somehow swept this series without delivering a single hit with runners in scoring position. They went 0-for-13 in those situations, including 0-for-10 on Sunday. Pending statistical review, that's believed to be the only instance of this in at least 40 years.

Nevertheless, the Giants' slugging, if they maintain it, should command respect.

"The power this year has been really nice," Bumgarner said. "We haven't had a whole lot of it in the past. It lets you know that your lineup's dangerous. It puts a lot of pressure on the other pitcher and the other team."

The Giants, who improved to 15-1 when they open the scoring, did muster a first-inning run without the aid of a homer. Hunter Pence doubled with one out, advanced to third base on Wood's wild pitch and came home on Posey's groundout to first base. Atlanta catcher Evan Gattis committed catcher's interference as Posey swung, but under rule 6.08(c), Giants manager Bruce Bochy had the option of declining the penalty and taking the play, to use football parlance.

Pence's tally broke a streak of five consecutive runs scored by the Giants on solo home runs, all in this series' first two games.

Said Bochy, "It's like the old adage: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. And I did not want to give up that run."

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