Lincecum continues harsh education
Rookie gives up six runs in first two frames of Giants' loss
MILWAUKEE -- Tim Lincecum may have had the bloated pitching line attached to his name Tuesday, but he didn't even appear to be the Giant most upset about that.Instead, a crestfallen Guillermo Rodriguez repeatedly rued how he hasn't managed to coax a quality outing from Lincecum, his one-time batterymate in the Minors. "I don't even know what to say," Rodriguez said. "I feel so bad. I caught him great in Triple-A. I can't have a good game with him here yet." Rodriguez caught Lincecum's last start, when the Blue Jays bashed him for seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. San Francisco's prized prospect fared slightly better Tuesday evening against the Brewers, but it still wasn't pretty. Milwaukee knocked Lincecum out of the game after four innings on its way to a 6-2 victory over the Giants before 35,238 fans at Miller Park. San Francisco has lost six games in a row and 18 of its last 24. The Giants will try to avoid their second consecutive series sweep by tossing ace Barry Zito out on the mound for the finale of their three-game series Wednesday. "It's been awhile since we've won a game, and believe me, there's nobody out there happy with what's happening," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Nobody has to tell us we have to get our act together." Lincecum (2-2) surrendered six earned runs in four innings -- including three-spots in each of his first two frames. The young right-hander gave up five hits and four walks, while striking out six. He managed just 40 strikes among his 74 pitches. The poor outing bloated his ERA from 5.25 to 5.88. Tuesday's start continued a trend of shaky performances Lincecum has endured in June. The 23-year-old is now 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA in his four June starts, having walked 14 in 18 2/3 innings. He hasn't lasted past the fifth inning in his last three starts. "People are going to have these days," Lincecum said. "Even great pitchers that have been around have these kinds of days. It's just a matter of bouncing back from them." The hard-throwing Lincecum struggled from the very first pitch of the game -- ball one to Brewers leadoff hitter Corey Hart. Hart singled on a 2-0 pitch, and Lincecum then walked the next three batters, each of them on five pitches, to force in a run. Lincecum had been working on keeping his pitches down during his last few bullpen sessions, in the hopes of reversing his recent pitching funk. "It kind of translated a bit too heavily into the game -- way too down," Lincecum said of his first-inning struggles. "Walks will kill a team." That prompted catcher Rodriguez to jog out to the mound to deliver a few words of encouragement and a pat on the back for the young hurler. The move temporarily seemed to work. Lincecum retired his next three batters, two of them on sacrifice flies that padded the Brewers' lead to 3-0. Lincecum then came out firing in the second inning, pounding the strike zone with his high-90s fastball. The flamethrower quickly struck out his first two batters, including opposing pitcher Ben Sheets on a 98-mph heater. "He was throwing the ball well," Rodriguez said. "He was throwing hard." But Lincecum then ran into trouble against the top of Milwaukee's lineup, allowing the next four batters to reach base. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder capped the Brewers rally with an RBI single and a two-run double, respectively, padding Milwaukee's lead to 6-0. Rodriguez said Lincecum had thrown several borderline pitches in the first inning that home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth had called low. As a result, the young hurler elevated his pitches in the second, causing him to get hit. "He kind of went the other way when he tried to compensate and had trouble getting the ball where he wanted," Bochy said. Lincecum settled down after the second, retiring eight of his last nine batters and leaving himself with some positives to take home. But the Brewers had pulled too far ahead by then. Milwaukee's offensive outburst made a winner of Sheets (8-3), who pitched a complete-game six-hitter. The right-hander walked one and struck out four. The only offense San Francisco mustered came in the fourth inning, when Ryan Klesko blasted a two-run shot to right-center. "He had good stuff tonight, and he located it well," Bochy said of Sheets. "When you're facing a good pitcher, you need to stay in the ballgame. We got knocked out early." Bochy said he might consider skipping Lincecum's turn in the rotation his next time up, with the Giants enjoying an off-day Thursday. San Francisco did the same thing with Matt Cain last year, when the big right-hander stumbled to a 1-5 record with a 7.04 ERA in his first seven starts. Cain skipped a start and pitched two hitless innings out of the bullpen in a 14-3 win against the Astros on May 16, all the way putting in some extra work on the side. Cain then responded with a complete-game, one-hit gem in his next outing against the Athletics. "He's the manager, and he knows the best," Lincecum said. "If it worked out for Cain -- I think we're pretty similar pitchers -- I think it could work out for me too."
Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.