SAN FRANCISCO — Atlanta Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia is the first to admit he’s not a very good hitter.
But that doesn’t keep him from trying.
Garcia combined with three relievers on a four-hit shutout and produced the only runs of the game with a seventh-inning single, lifting the Braves to a 2-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night.
Catcher Tyler Flowers had two hits and scored the tiebreaking run for the Braves, who won their sixth straight series opener on the first night of a nine-game trip.
“I put in a lot of time on hitting,” insisted Garcia, who nonetheless entered the game with a .091 batting average (1-for-11). “It allows you to stay in the game longer.”
That was the case Friday, when Braves manager Brian Snitker elected to stick with his hot pitcher at a time when a pinch hit could have made the difference between winning and losing.
Turns out, Garcia got that hit himself.
“His pitch count was so low,” Snitker said of Garcia’s first six innings. “I didn’ want to take him out, so I let him hit.”
And because of it, the Giants suffered a fourth straight loss.
“We’re in this offensive struggle right now,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose club has been held to six runs in its last four games. “I thought we’d come home and gets some rips in, but it didn’t happen. Their guy was good.”
Garcia’s hit came after the Giants had elected to intentionally walk Dansby Swanson with two outs and Flowers on second base in the seventh inning of a scoreless game.
Hitting left-handed against Giants right-hander Matt Cain, Garcia grounded a single into left field, and the Braves elected to test the arm of Brandon Belt, the Giants’ regular first baseman, even with a catcher running.
Flowers and the ball arrived in the vicinity of home plate at about the same time, with the throw deflecting off the runner’s leg and away from Giants catcher Nick Hundley, allowing the run to score.
“When you’re not blessed with speed, you need to find a way to get every inch you can,” said Flowers, who had an aggressive lead off second base and was nearly picked off during Garcia’s at-bat. “It’s a game of inches.”
Cain ran down Belt’s deflected throw, but his relay to Hundley was too late to get a sliding Swanson, who scored from first base on the play to make it 2-0.
“Kinda like, ‘Run, Forrest, run.’ I just kept going,” Swanson said, making a reference to the movie “Forrest Gump.”
The game-winning hit was the third of Garcia’s career. He had one last season for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Braves.
“I like to talk to some of the guys,” Garcia said of having recently gotten batting tips from teammate Matt Kemp. “I like to take a swing and do some damage.”
Cain (3-3) was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh, exiting having allowed two runs, only one of which was earned, and seven hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out three.
“That’s what it comes down to in a game like that when both guys are going back and forth,” Cain said of Garcia’s hit. “You know you’re looking for that one little hit that’ll scratch a run or two across. He did it. It’s definitely tough when a pitcher does that.”
Cain had entered the game 3-0 at home with a 1.19 ERA. He has gotten one run or fewer of offensive support in six of his 10 starts this season.
Garcia (2-3) walked Brandon Crawford leading off the Giants’ half of the seventh and was pulled two batters later, with two outs and a runner on first.
Garcia allowed four hits in his 6 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two, improving to 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA in his last seven starts against the Giants.
Right-handers Jose Ramirez, Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless ball in relief of Garcia. Johnson picked up his 10th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Brandon Phillips and Nick Markakis had doubles for the Braves, who won for the 10th time in their last 15 games.
Atlanta outhit San Francisco 7-4.
Eduardo Nunez had two of the four hits for the Giants, who were opening a six-game homestand. Nunez extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
NOTES: Braves LHP Jaime Garcia had seven hits (tied for 27th best among all pitchers) and four RBIs (tied for 16th best) last season when he batted .171 (7-for-41). … The Giants were shut out for the fifth time this season. … The Braves appeared to pull off a successful hidden-ball trick with the Giants batting with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. But the umpires ruled timeout had been called before 2B Brandon Phillips tagged Giants 3B Eduardo Nunez near second base. … When the Braves face Giants LHP Ty Blach in the second game of the series on Saturday, it’ll be just the fourth time this season they have seen a left-handed starter. … The Braves haven’t won a season series against the Giants since 2011.