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LAD@ATL: Hanson fans five in first start after injury

After the Braves and the Giants each finished critical series Wednesday pitting the top two teams in their respective divisions against each other, the two clubs will open a four-game set in San Francisco on Thursday night.

The Braves are coming off a series loss to the Nationals, who are leading the National League East, while the Giants won their series against the Dodgers to retake the lead in the NL West. The series in San Francisco doesn't have quite the same air of expectation as the division rivalry games each team just played, but it could be another playoff preview.

Since the All-Star break, the Braves and Giants have the third- and fourth-most wins in the National League. The Braves have 24 and the Giants have 22, trailing only the Reds with 29 and the Nationals with 28.

Right-hander Tommy Hanson will start the series opener for the Braves. He will be making his second start since returning from a back strain that forced him onto the 15-day disabled list. In his return against the Dodgers last Friday, Hanson allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings, recording his first quality start of the second half.

"I was happy with how I threw, but I know I can throw better," Hanson said. "I felt like I had overall good command."

The Giants will turn to left-hander Barry Zito. Thursday will be the 48th time the Braves have faced a left-handed starter this season, the most in the Major Leagues. The Braves are 22-25 in games started by left-handers.

Lately, Zito has struggled. In his last four starts, he has a 7.52 ERA and has twice pitched fewer than five innings. However, he dominated the Braves when the two teams met in Atlanta last month, throwing seven shutout innings in the Giants' 9-0 victory.

"He's tough. I mean mentally tough," manager Bruce Bochy said that day. "He's done a great job for us."

Braves: Jones streaking to finish
Third baseman Chipper Jones will make his last regular-season trip to San Francisco this weekend, carrying a seven-game hitting streak.

Jones, who will retire at the end of the season, has a .293 batting average with 23 home runs in 114 career games against the Giants. Four of those home runs have come in AT&T Park, most recently on July 24, 2007, when he homered off Matt Morris.

• Manager Fredi Gonzalez shook up the Braves' lineup in their 5-1 victory against the Nationals on Wednesday, giving center fielder Michael Bourn, catcher Brian McCann and second baseman Dan Uggla some rest. He said none of them were benched, but with the Braves playing 20 straight games without an off-day, he just wanted to keep them fresh.

"It's just giving them a day, and they all knew about it," Gonzalez said. "We had talked about it. They were fine."

Gonzalez said Jones could get Thursday off because of the Braves' cross-country flight from Washington to San Francisco on Wednesday night.

Giants: After successful road trip, team returns home
Thursday will mark the Giants' return to San Francisco after a six-game road trip. During the trip, they won series against the Padres and Dodgers.

The Giants went 5-1 on the road trip and extended their lead in the NL West to 2 1/2 games over the Dodgers.

The Giants scored 33 runs during the trip, and their starting pitchers combined for a 2.52 ERA.

• Catcher Buster Posey was scratched from the lineup with tightness in his right hamstring before Wednesday's series finale against the Dodgers. Posey is listed as day to day.

Bochy said Posey was available to pinch-hit or as a defensive replacement, but did not use him in the Giants' 8-4 victory.

Posey is hitting .327 with 19 home runs this season.

Worth noting
• Outfielder Reed Johnson, acquired by the Braves with left-hander Paul Maholm in a July 30 trade with the Cubs, has faced Zito more than any other current Brave. He is 9-for-29 with two doubles against the veteran left-hander.

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