SAN FRANCISCO -- Time will tell how important the resiliency displayed this weekend proves to be. But fresh off a sweep of the defending World Series champion Giants, it's safe to say that the Braves are feeling much better than they were just a few days ago.
In a knock-down, drag-out affair that proved similar to ones these two teams played in the National League Division Series last year, the Braves claimed a 9-6, 10-inning win over the Giants on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park. The decisive blow came courtesy of Nate McLouth, who hit All-Star closer Brian Wilson's 3-2 fastball through the middle of the infield for a two-out, two-run single.
"That's what you live to play for," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "You don't live to play for the 5-0 shutout. That game right there, that's what you live for. That's two teams getting after it. Body shot for body shot and then the knockout blow."
Long after Brandon Beachy and Jonathan Sanchez produced solid starts, Jason Heyward delivered a potential knockout punch in the seventh with a two-out, three-run homer off Jeremy Affeldt. Given a chance to deliver for a bullpen that desperately misses the injured Peter Moylan, Jairo Asencio blew a three-run lead by allowing the Giants to tally four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
But before the Giants could even get comfortable with their first lead of the day, Dan Uggla opened the eighth inning with a leadoff homer off Sergio Romo. The long blast into the left-field seats snapped a 1-for-17 skid for Uggla and accounted for his only hit of this weekend's series.
"He's slowly, slowly getting going again," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Uggla, who has produced many clutch hits while hitting just .182 this year. "Another three or four days, I would send him to [Triple-A] Gwinett."
Having secured this three-game series sweep, Gonzalez and his players were appreciating the opportunity to make these kind of jovial comments. They certainly weren't in the mood to do so Thursday, when they erased a one-run ninth-inning deficit to the Dodgers and then blew a one-run lead in the bottom half of the same inning.
Still, after suffering a 12-inning loss to the Dodgers that afternoon, Jones had a sense the Braves had regained the attitude they possessed while claiming 25 last-at-bat wins last year. This seemingly proved to be true as the Braves showed resiliency while bouncing back from that loss and the blow they suffered when Aaron Rowand gave the Giants a brief lead Sunday with a two-run, seventh-inning double off Asencio.
"You kind of got a feeling that was a kick-start," Jones said. "We ended up losing that game, but we came up here and took three games from the world champs. So confidence is a lot different than it was a week ago."
Celebrating his 39th birthday, Jones delivered a two-run, first-inning double before Sanchez recorded the afternoon's first out and then capped his two-hit performance with a single in the decisive 10th. Wilson walked Uggla to load the bases and then recorded two quick outs before nearly escaping his showdown with McLouth.
McLouth got ahead with a 3-0 count, looked at two strikes and then shot a full-count fastball through the middle of the infield to score Jones and Heyward, who had capped his three-hit performance with a single to start the 10th inning.
"With two outs there, I wanted to take two strikes and make him throw two consecutive strikes," McLouth said. "Luckily, the last one, I put a pretty good swing on it."
While hitting just .190 last year, McLouth likely wouldn't have been able to bring that approach to the plate in this kind of stressful situation. The former All-Star outfielder has said things will be different this year, and he took advantage of the chance to prove it with the hit that gave the Braves their most important win of this young season.
"I thought Nate's at-bat was outstanding," Gonzalez said. "He made him throw him three strikes. In a situation where it's not easy -- bases loaded and everybody wants to be a hero -- it showed a lot of patience and professionalism on Nate's part to come up with that big two-out [hit]."
With Moylan on the disabled list with a sore lower back, Gonzalez opted to roll the dice with Asencio rather than veteran Scott Linebrink. The decision proved costly as Asencio surrendered three consecutive one-out singles, issued a bases-loaded walk and allowed the Giants to claim a one-run lead just after the Braves had seemingly gained momentum with Heyward's long homer off Affeldt.
Asencio's struggles denied a second straight win for Beachy, who allowed two earned runs and three hits in six innings. The 24-year-old right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced before hanging an 0-2 curveball that Aubrey Huff hit off the right-field wall for a two-out, fourth-inning double. Buster Posey followed with a game-tying, two-run homer.
After Heyward and Jones doubled in the first inning, Sanchez didn't allow another hit and retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. But the Braves' bats awoke in time to produce a thrilling victory that came with great assistance from left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty, who kept the Giants scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings.
"The Braves have been struggling before they got here," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They're a better team than they've played and they showed it in this series. They have good pitching, and a good lineup. They are going to be there at the end."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.