Giants Vs. Braves: Barry Zito Squares Off Against Jair Jurrjens

(Sports Network) - A three-game sweep to open the unofficial second half of the season has pushed the San Francisco Giants into first place in the National League West.

A season-high winning streak also has the Atlanta Braves eyeing the top spot in their division.

The two surging clubs open a three-game series tonight at Turner Field.

The Giants dropped seven of nine before the All-Star break, but have looked refreshed since the hiatus. They finished off a sweep of the Astros on Sunday with a 3-2 victory, getting a solid start from Matt Cain.

Cain was facing Houston for the first time since pitching a perfect game against them last month. He logged 6 1/3 innings on Sunday, scattering two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts.

Buster Posey had three hits and two RBI, including the go-ahead single in the fifth inning. The All-Star catcher had logged just four hits in his previous eight games.

"We had to pitch well. We weren't quite swinging the bats the way we can," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Buster had a nice game."

The sweep, coupled with a current span of six losses in seven games by Los Angeles, has pushed the Giants two games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West.

The Braves, meanwhile, finished off a three-game sweep of their own on Sunday, using a big fifth inning to down the Mets 6-1. The victory was Atlanta's seventh in a row and has the club 2 1/2 games behind Washington for first place in the NL East.

Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer to highlight a six-run fifth and Ben Sheets earned the victory in his first big-league start since July 19, 2010 with the Oakland Athletics. Sheets allowed two hits over six scoreless innings, striking out five.

"He looked good today," said Atlanta's Michael Bourn, who had an RBI, of Sheets. "I know he had to be on a limit because it was only his first start. He threw the ball well. He gave us a chance and kept them off balance pretty good."

Jair Jurrjens looks to extend his own resurgence tonight as he makes his fifth start with the Braves since a two-month demotion to the minors.

Jurrjens returned to the majors on June 22 and has gone 3-0 with a 2.13 earned run average since. He won at Philadelphia on July 8, charged with three runs on six hits and a walk in seven frames. The walk was only the fifth he has issued in his last four starts.

The 26-year-old righty now sits at 3-2 with a 4.97 ERA in eight starts on the season and is 2-3 with a 3.58 ERA in five career meetings with the Giants.

Barry Zito will look to open the second half on the right foot for the Giants and is 7-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 17 starts. However, the lefty has won just twice in his last six starts and has yielded at least four runs in four of those games.

That was the case in his last outing on July 6 at Pittsburgh as Zito allowed four runs over five frames on seven hits and three walks. The 34-year-old did escape with a victory.

Zito is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five career meetings with the Braves and four of those have taken place at Turner Field. Zito has a 2.08 ERA and 25 strikeouts in Atlanta's home ballpark, picking up all three of his wins there.

While Zito has enjoyed Turner Field, the Giants have lost nine of their last 12 in Atlanta and haven't won a series there since 2008.

The Braves have also won eight of the past nine encounters overall.

For more on the Giants, head over to McCovey Chronicles.

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