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May 12, 2013
Scutaro's streak at 12; Lincecum flashes back against Braves

SAN FRANCISCO -- After starting this season 2-for-23 at the plate, Marco Scutaro said on April 8 that he didn't want to use his troublesome back as an excuse, but that it really was bothering him. Apparently you're now seeing just how much -- and how much of a difference a pain-free Scutaro makes for the Giants.

Scutaro homered and doubled in the Giants' 5-1 win over the Braves today to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He's hitting .479 (23-for-48) during the streak and has multi-hit games each of the last six days.

The home run to left off a Kris Medlen breaking ball in the fifth was Scutaro's first of the season. Of course, Scutaro was asked after the game to explain his streak. And of course, he offered pretty much the same explanation he has the past few days.

"I just feel better," Scutaro said. "I feel healthy. My back feels good and that makes me able to stay back and wait for the ball."

Scutaro has raised his batting average 90 points, from .215 on April 28, over the 12-game streak. He has also scored 11 of his 20 runs in those games, a sign that when he is getting on base, the hitters behind him are driving him in.

That is, unless he's driving himself in. Scutaro just missed a second home run in the sixth inning on the double to left that just as easily could have been a flyout. A fan appeared to reach over the wall and interfere with Justin Upton's attempt at a leaping catch. Umpires reviewed the play and ruled it a double -- despite Scutaro's signaling for a home run.

"Yeah," Scutaro said with a grin when asked if he was pleading his case. "Why not?"

The second baseman's dry wit is also in fine form. Asked what Medlen threw him on the home run, Scutaro replied: "Baseball."

* Scutaro's was one of three solo homers the Giants hit on a warm day at AT&T Park to back Tim Lincecum in Lincecum's best outing of the season (he acknowledged as much).

Statistically, there was no question -- Lincecum pitched seven shutout innings and gave up two hits. It was just the third time in his career he has gone that deep into a start allowing no more than two hits and no runs, and the first time since Aug. 13, 2011 against the Marlins.

But there was also the fact that both the Braves' hits were singles, one of them an infield single, and aside from a few instances the Atlanta lineup didn't make much solid contact against Lincecum at all.

"He was able to throw the ball to both sides of the plate, threw the off-speed stuff out of the zone at the right time and threw it for strikes at the right time as well," catcher Buster Posey said. "Really seemed like he was in control the whole start."

Manager Bruce Bochy said this is what Lincecum is capable of when he stays focused on the mound and that today the right-hander "didn't drop his guard at all" even when ahead in counts. That and more Lincecum is covered in tomorrow's print story, which touches on three consecutive good outings by Giants starters to end this series.

Lincecum wanted to keep the outing in perspective, saying that while it's something he can hopefully build on, "I'm not jumping up in the air right now. ... I'm happy about it, but it's still a work in progress."

* The Giants' three home runs matched their season-high in a game. They nearly had another when Gregor Blanco crushed a pitch in the sixth that one-hopped the wall near the 421-foot sign in right-center for a ground-rule double. Had it not cleared the fence, the speedy Blanco might have had a shot at an inside-the-park homer.

One of the home runs was Pablo Sandoval's seventh career splash hit, which he hit off a Medlen changeup in the third with the pink bat players were able to use today in honor of Mother's Day and cancer awareness. Sandoval used his throughout the game (and also wore bright pink cleats for the occasion). Scutaro abandoned his for a standard bat after his first plate appearance.

* Brandon Belt hit the Giants' first homer, going the other way to left-center on a short, quick swing in the second. Bochy said it was a sign that Belt, who went through a tough stretch to start the season, may be regaining the approach that worked so well for him in spring training.

"Brandon's strength is left-center to right-center," Bochy said. "He's got to remind himself of that, just quiet down up there sometimes. He's trying to cut down some movement and gets a little pull-happy.

"The home run, that was a great swing, that's more like him, using the whole field like that. ... He's strong enough to hit it out if he hits it well. Just stay in the middle of the field like he did today."

* Overall it was a pretty positive mood as the Giants packed up to head to Toronto having taken three of four from the Braves and 7 of 10 on the homestand. The Giants outscored the Braves 23-4 over the last three days and played well in all facets. Posey said he thinks it was "some of the better baseball we've played this year."

Off Monday, the Giants are back in action Tuesday against the Blue Jays. They'll throw Barry Zito (3-1, 2.75) against last year's N.L. Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, who is having a rough season so far (2-5, 5.06).

Still, Dickey has that knuckleball. Asked before today's game about the fluttering pitch, Sandoval offered this scouting report: "Close your eyes and swing."

-- 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.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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