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April 10, 2013
Giants notes: On Lincecum's 'strange' night, Crawford's homer

SAN FRANCISCO -- This was probably Bruce Bochy's best line tonight in talking about what he termed a "strange" outing for Tim Lincecum: "Unfortunately, all the innings count."

Lincecum was pretty good for five innings in the Giants' 9-6 win over the Rockies, making one mistake that Troy Tulowitzki hit for a home run but allowing only two other runners to reach base and striking out six. He was also very erratic in one, a five-run second that snowballed largely due to three walks, one of them to the opposing pitcher with two outs after getting into a 1-2 count.

So what to make of Lincecum's night? Bochy chose to focus mainly on the positives.

"What was impressive was how he regrouped and he gave us six innings," Bochy said. "The other five innings, he was really good. I thought he was throwing the ball well early in that second inning, then lost his command there.

"I think he has a lot to feel good about the way he bounced back and the way he threw the ball."

Lincecum wasn't exactly thrilled with the outing, especially walking pitcher Juan Nicasio twice, including a four-pitch walk in the fourth. But there were some encouraging signs. After the second inning, he said, he looked at film of the inning and was able to make an adjustment -- which he didn't explain -- before coming back out for the third.

"After giving up those five runs, just trying to settle in and be competitive, battle and stay out there as long as I could -- that's what I was trying to do those last four innings," he said.

There was also the fact that Lincecum didn't appear to tire despite the long second inning and a total pitch count of 104. Lincecum didn't have all of spring training to get stretched out because of his blister issue, and Bochy acknowledged he had some concerns before Lincecum's first start against the Dodgers whether he was at full strength.

"That (start) helped build his stamina, because he was a little bit behind," Bochy said. "And he showed it today, being able to hang in there and go six innings and throw just over 100 pitches."

Marco Scutaro put Lincecum in a tough spot in the second, trying to start a double play on a ball far to his left -- rather than taking a sure out at first -- and making an errant throw. But it was Lincecum who got Nicasio to a 1-2 count in what was still a 1-1 game, then missed with three pitches in a row to prolong the inning.

Bochy said he was close to getting a reliever up after the next two Rockies each drove in two runs. But after Lincecum got Carlos Gonzalez to fly out to end the inning, then started the third by striking out Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer, he decided to let Lincecum go.

"The way the game was going, the way he was throwing the ball after that, I was going to let him go and I wouldn't have gone to the bullpen even if it was fresh," Bochy said.

The Giants have won both of Lincecum's starts this season despite their two-time Cy Young winner having a very weird line: 11 innings, 7 hits, 8 runs, 6 earned runs, 11 walks, 11 strikeouts.

"I think I'm where I need to be stamina-wise," Lincecum said. "But I can still get better at locating my pitches and erasing those five-run innings, obviously. I can get better at limiting that damage."

* An offense that Bochy has said wasn't "clicking" for the first week finally churned its gears in this game with 14 hits and six different players driving in runs. Angel Pagan's third hit broke the tie in the eighth, but it was Brandon Crawford's opposite-field three-run homer in the sixth that seemed to galvanize the Giants, who trailed 6-2 at the time.

"That got us back in the game, gave us life," Bochy said. "It's not easy to do in this ballpark. He's a strong kid, and that's something that we needed."

It was Crawford's 363rd career plate appearance at AT&T Park -- and his second home run. It was also Crawford's first career home run to left field, according to a breakdown on baseball-reference.com. Of his eight career homers, five have come with multiple runners on base.

"He's the kind of guy, he can hit a ball out," third baseman Pablo Sandoval said.

* The Rockies made the decision later in the inning to walk Sandoval to load the bases with one out for Hunter Pence. On a normal night, that would have been Buster Posey hitting behind Sandoval. With Posey getting the night off, the Rockies chose to go after Pence, despite his three-run homer in the first inning Monday and RBI single in the first inning tonight.

Pence hit the first pitch he saw from Matt Belisle into right field for an RBI single to tie the game and now has a team-high seven RBIs in eight games. Pence had 45 RBIs in 59 games after joining the Giants last season, but it seemed like quite a few came from him making productive outs. So far this season, Pence is doing it with hits, including three home runs.

Tonight, he and Crawford underscored the thing Sandoval said he likes about the Giants' lineup: "Every day it's a different guy."

* Pagan has five multi-hit games already this season. Marco Scutaro logged his first with three singles, a sign he might be feeling his way out of the timing issues that led to his 3-for-27 start. The Giants had as many hits with runners in scoring position (seven) as they did in their first seven games combined, when they went 7-for-37.

* Not only has Sergio Romo saved all five of the Giants' wins this season, he has also finished each one with a strikeout for the final out. In fact, he's done that in seven saves in a row dating back to the last two games of the World Series. Romo has eight strikeouts in five innings and has allowed one hitter to reach base.

* The Giants go for the sweep tomorrow behind Barry Zito (15 in a row and counting), before they hit the road for a four-game series in Chicago. They'll face left-hander Jeff Francis, so expect Posey back in the lineup and likely Andres Torres in left.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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