SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Madison Bumgarner burst onto the national scene with a spectacular postseason last fall as a rookie for the World Series champions.
Now, he's struggling to find his way even when his stuff feels right on target.
Chipper Jones hit a two-run double, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman each singled in runs during a decisive four-run third inning that knocked Bumgarner out early and the Atlanta Braves beat the San Francisco Giants 4-1 on Friday night.
Bumgarner (0-3) was the winning pitcher in the Game 4 division series clincher against the Braves at Turner Field as San Francisco advanced to face the Phillies in the NLCS, becoming the youngest pitcher in franchise history to win a postseason game at 21 years, 71 days. But he is still looking for his first win of 2011 after four starts.
``I felt like I had some of the best stuff I've had since I've been here,' Bumgarner said. ``I guess I'm just having some bad luck right now. I'm trying not to change things and trying not to get frustrated. It's good to have guys like Jeremy Affeldt around to talk with. I realize everybody goes through this. It's hard and I'm trying to deal with it. Nobody said it was easy. The best hitters in the world is who we're facing. I guess it's all part of the growing pains.'
Tommy Hanson (2-3), who had a no-decision in Game 2 of the playoffs against the Giants, struck out seven and walked one in seven strong innings as the Braves won for just the second time in their last six games.
San Francisco returned home to AT&T Park for a quick three-game homestand with the Braves during a stretch with 16 of 19 games on the road. Next up is a 10-game East Coast road trip through Pittsburgh, Washington and New York.
Even with the Braves in town, there was hardly the hype that came in the team's first six-game homestand. That featured three days of World Series celebrations, then three games with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers - including a tribute to longtime fan Bryan Stow, who was severely beaten outside Dodger Stadium after the March 31 opener.
``Things have gotten back to normal,' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
This time, there was no Bobby Cox standing atop the opposite dugout. The longtime manager retired after last season and was replaced by Fredi Gonzalez.
``I know Fredi well. He's a friend,' Bochy said. ``It's still going to be strange for me to look over to that dugout and not see Bobby. I'm really going to miss him.'
Every game in that NLDS between these clubs was decided by one run. The Braves got to Bumgarner in a hurry in the third, with Nate McLouth reaching on a leadoff walk and Martin Prado drawing a free pass one out later to set up the RBIs by Heyward and Jones. Heyward, runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting last year to Giants catcher Buster Posey, snapped an 0-for-14 funk with the hit.
``He couldn't limit the damage,' Bochy said of Bumgarner. ``He couldn't stop it. Since the beginning of the year it's been one inning. I look at his stuff. I'm not concerned about him. You have to remember where he's at. He'll come out of this.'
Giants shortstop Miguel Tejada committed a fielding error - just the fourth all year by a Braves opponent - that kept the inning going. That was after the 2002 AL MVP stole a hit from Alex Gonzalez to end the second, facing the outfield as he ran the ball down in shallow left before making a lunging, backhanded catch. Tejada somersaulted after the play.
San Francisco outscored Colorado 14-4 in the first two games of its series earlier this week at Coors Field before losing 10-2 on Wednesday.
But the Giants couldn't muster much of anything against Hanson until Pat Burrell's RBI groundout in the seventh scored Pablo Sandoval, who hit a one-out double. That was the third and final hit allowed by Hanson.
``He didn't miss on the plate very much,' Posey said. ``I didn't feel like I had too many good pitches to hit until the third time through.'
Atlanta's Jonny Venters tested his sore arm in a side session, then relieved Hanson and pitched a perfect eighth. Craig Kimbrel bounced back from his first blown save Thursday with a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save in six chances.
Sandoval, a late scratch Wednesday against the Rockies, received treatment for his strained right triceps muscle during Thursday's off day and did some early hitting Friday. He was back in the lineup at third base and batted fifth.
NLCS MVP Cody Ross went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his home debut after coming off the disabled list during the road trip. Fans in the sellout crowd of 42,404 chanted ``Cody! Cody!' when he came to the plate.
Notes: Injured Giants CF Andres Torres likely will need more time for his strained left Achilles' tendon to heal. While he is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, Torres hasn't yet run the bases, sprinted at full speed to shagged flyballs. He did agility work Thursday and said he will undergo another MRI exam in the coming days. ... San Francisco RHP reliever Santiago Casilla, on the DL with an inflamed pitching elbow, had his first bullpen session - making 20 pitches and all fastballs. ``I feel very good,' Casilla said. ``I'm so happy today.' Casilla probably will throw from a mound again Tuesday. ... San Francisco has sold out all seven of its home games.
The Associated Press News Service
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