Lincecum unusually ineffective
Giants ace done in by big flies in series-opening loss to Mets
NEW YORK -- Tim Lincecum has excelled so consistently that when he looks merely ordinary on the mound, it's a shock.The Lincecum who faced the New York Mets in Tuesday night's series opener at Shea Stadium rarely flashed his All-Star form. He surrendered at least one hit in each of the six innings he worked. He allowed two home runs after yielding that many in his previous 10 outings. Bereft of their talisman's power, the Giants lost, 7-0, and dropped six games behind first-place Arizona in the National League West. Lincecum (10-2) confessed that he felt as vulnerable as he looked while yielding four runs and nine hits. "I didn't come ready to play," Lincecum said. "I just felt like my body didn't feel right. No excuses. I just didn't pitch very well." Lincecum said that he warmed up adequately but once he began the first inning, "I didn't feel like I had any rhythm going. I didn't really feel like I had any of my pitches going. My changeup was going up and away, my curveball wasn't breaking, my fastball was up." As a result, Lincecum, who entered the game having allowed one home run to left-handed hitters in 207 at-bats, yielded a pair -- switch-hitter Carlos Beltran's three-run drive in the first and lefty Carlos Delgado's two-out solo shot in the sixth. San Francisco turned a pair of double plays to help Lincecum avoid further trouble.
"It could have been a lot worse than it was," Lincecum said.Lincecum's perfection in several facets dissolved. His six-decision winning streak ended. He absorbed his first loss following a Giants defeat, having gone 9-0 with a 2.61 ERA in such situations this year. And he endured his first road setback after posting a 7-0 mark with a 1.87 ERA away from San Francisco. Skeptics or pessimists could cite Lincecum's last five starts, in which he has recorded a 4.65 ERA to hike his overall ERA from 1.99 to 2.66. In fairness, he's 2-1 in that stretch with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in 31 innings. Manager Bruce Bochy, who seized upon Monday's scheduled off-day to move Lincecum's start ahead one day and give him one more outing before the All-Star break, remained unconcerned. He insisted that the right-hander was physically sound.
"He has set the bar so high that when he gives up four runs in six innings, you're trying to look for something he's doing different," Bochy said. "But Timmy's fine. ... You're not going to go out there with your best stuff every time."
Right fielder Randy Winn echoed Bochy.
"I didn't think it was a terrible outing for him," Winn said of Lincecum. "He didn't seem to have the feel for some of his offspeed pitches, which is a little unlike him. It happens. He did a good job of pitching. When he got in trouble, he made his pitches and got those double-play balls."Moreover, Mets catcher Brian Schneider suggested that he and his teammates were motivated a little more than usual to face Lincecum, the subject of a recent Sports Illustrated cover story.
"He made us play better," Schneider said. "We're aware of how good he was."The dominant right-hander on this muggy evening at Shea Stadium was not Lincecum, but New York's Mike Pelfrey, who allowed three hits -- only one of which left the infield -- in seven innings. The Giants had the misfortune of encountering Pelfrey (7-6) when all the stars and planets were aligned in his favor. He has allowed two or fewer runs in 10 starts and four or more in his other seven. "He did a good job against lefties of hitting that outside corner," Winn said. "He was really hitting his spots," first baseman John Bowker said. "Against the righties, he was really burying that sinker on their hands."
Of Pelfrey's sinker, his signature pitch, Bowker said, "It definitely had a lot of movement. It was a hard one, too -- 92, 93 [mph]."Bowker had the best opportunity to spoil Pelfrey's effort early when he batted in the first inning with the bases loaded and two out. But Bowker recoiled from a 1-2 pitch that was called strike three. Thereafter, the Giants never moved another runner into scoring position. "I definitely thought it was inside," Bowker said of the strikeout pitch. "It had a little run, kind of went back toward the plate. But I think it was inside."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.