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April 4, 2013
Lincecum gives 'gutty' effort as Giants take round one in L.A.

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants arrived at Dodger Stadium this week having sat through a winter's worth of outside talk about their standing pat vs. the Dodgers' free spending, the comparative qualities of their pitching staffs, the revitalization of one of baseball's oldest rivalries. They head home with a record of 2-1, after Tim Lincecum avoided the pitfalls of a strange, shaky start Wednesday night and several members of the Giants' bullpen delivered clutch outings in a 5-3 win.

"It is really satisfying for us," Lincecum said of taking the opening series in L.A. "We wanted to come in here and make a statement.

"Coming in the first series after winning the World Series, a lot of guys were looking forward to this series. I know I was personally. We took it to heart and left it out there on the field."

Lincecum's first start of 2013 couldn't be described as sharp. He walked seven, tying a career high set last Sept. 7 against the Dodgers, and allowed 10 baserunners altogether. But he departed after five innings with his ERA still at zero.

The two runs the Dodgers scored against him were unearned -- Carl Crawford scored on a Hector Sanchez passed ball in the first inning, and Luis Cruz's sacrifice fly in the fifth followed an error by first baseman Buster Posey, who found out three hours before the game he would be starting there in place of the ill Brandon Belt.

What Lincecum did well was the one thing that so often eluded him last season -- when he got into a jam, he didn't allow the inning to unravel. The Dodgers were 1-for-9 against Lincecum with runners in scoring position.

"He battled," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think that's the best way to describe Timmy's effort. Great effort.

"You've got to keep your composure out there. One play we didn't come up with, but he found a way to limit the damage and give us a chance to win the ballgame."

After Posey's error, the Dodgers had men on first and second with nobody out. Lincecum got Andre Ethier and Cruz to fly out -- Cruz's scored Matt Kemp from third -- and then walked Juan Uribe, prompting a visit from Bochy, who jogged out to the mound rather than taking a slow walk.

"He was getting up there (in pitches)," Bochy said. "I've got to check on him at that point, see what he's got left. He was adamant he was good."

Lincecum got A.J. Ellis to fly out to Hunter Pence in right to end the inning. He later acknowledged that last season, when he got into "those two-on, no-out situations, I wouldn't find a way out of them. They'd just kind of eat me alive, and maybe I'd give up three or four.

"Making that transition from last year to this year, I think that's the difference you have to pay attention to -- that I have to pay attention to."

Wednesday night, he was able to grind through those innings. He threw just 46 of 91 pitches for strikes and faced 17 of 26 hitters out of the stretch. But the Giants' starting rotation still has an ERA of 0.00 for the season. Bochy described the effort as "gutty."

"I felt like more today I was competing than pitching," Lincecum said. "I knew I wasn't exactly hitting my spots all that well. I knew it was going to come down to a grind and who was going to leave it out there on the field. And that's just what I tried to do."

* The adventure wasn't over after Linceum departed. Jose Mijares started the sixth and allowed all three hitters he faced to reach. That brought up Kemp with the bases loaded and nobody out in a 5-2 game.

Bochy brought in George Kontos, who two days before had given up the tie-breaking home run to Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Kontos got Kemp to pull a ground ball to third base, where Pablo Sandoval turned a 5-3 double play.

"I just approached him the same way Hector and I approached him last year," Kontos said of facing Kemp. "We went at him with sinkers inside and with that closed-off stance he doesn't really get to that inside heater very well.

"So I threw him an inside heater and he kind of had a little bit of a defensive swing on it, kind of rolled over it to third base and we were able to turn two."

Kontos said he was glad to get into another game in the series rather than flying back to San Francisco with the Kershaw homer still freshest in his memory.

"It made me feel a lot better that Boch and (pitching coach Dave Righetti) threw me out there in that situation," he said. "That says a lot to me and it's definitely a confidence builder."

* Javier Lopez struck out Gonzalez to end the sixth. Continuing the theme of relievers picking each other up Wednesday, Lopez allowed a leadoff double to Ethier in the seventh, then watched as Chad Gaudin came in for his Giants debut and stranded Ethier on second with three consecutive outs.

Gaudin also threw a scoreless eighth, striking out Kemp looking on a slider to end the inning.

"What a great job he did," Bochy said.

When he made the club out of spring training, Gaudin seemed fit for a long relief role. But Wednesday he showed he was comfortable entering in a late-game, high-leverage situation.

"I'm just trying to get outs," Gaudin said. "When I'm called upon, I'm called upon. It just so happened tonight that that was the situation."

* The Giants held Kemp hitless for the series. The slugger had an especially frustrating night Wednesday, leaving eight men on base. Bochy said the Giants didn't pitch Kemp any particular way, but, "With a great hitter like that, hopefully your guys execute and make pitches. That's what it comes down to in that situation."

* Pablo Sandoval hit his first home run of the season off Josh Beckett in the third inning on a fastball that was at least letter-high, possibly higher. Sandoval wheeled on the pitch and lined it over the wall in right field.

"Special talent," Bochy said. "He showed that in the World Series. ... He's one of those guys who can expand the zone and still find a way to get good wood on it."

Bochy said what impresses him is Sandoval's timing this soon after he missed two weeks with a right elbow injury. The last thing still bothering Sandoval was hitting left-handed. The home run off the right-hander Beckett was a pretty good sign he's feeling better.

"He's got some of the best hands you've ever seen," said Hunter Pence, who also hit his first homer of the season off Beckett.

* Brandon Crawford's double in the third was the Giants' first extra-base hit of the year -- in their 72nd at-bat. It was also the first hit of the series for Crawford, who had a tough time against lefties Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the first two games.

Marco Scutaro also got off to a slow start, going hitless in four at-bats Wednesday and 1-for-12 for the series. Bochy said before the game he isn't worried -- that it's likely a matter of time before Scutaro starts hitting.

-- 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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