Lincecum leads Giants to series win
Rowand homers, Winn has four hits to lead offense in victory
SAN FRANCISCO -- There's a simple reason the fans at AT&T Park always seem livelier when Tim Lincecum takes the mound. It's the same reason the clubhouse typically is filled with music and smiles after his starts.
Against the Braves on Wednesday, Lincecum didn't have his best stuff -- his fastball was topping out in the low-90's -- and he burned through 41 pitches in two innings. No matter. With his ever-improving changeup, The Franchise lived up to his reputation in a 3-2 win, his 12th of the season and the Giants' fourth in their past six games.
In taking two of three from Atlanta, San Francisco won back-to-back series for the first time since June 24-29 against the Indians and Athletics. When else have they won consecutive series this year? That'd be never.
Unless Lincecum pitches every day, the Giants hopes of landing a playoff spot remain slim and slimmer. They've still got the league's worst home record and are in fourth place in the National League West. But there's been a noticeable difference in the team's play since recently switching to youth-mode.
Rookies Ivan Ochoa and Emmanuel Burriss are starting regularly, Fred Lewis is batting lower in the lineup to get more RBI opportunities and the results are coming rapidly. Playing shortstop, Ochoa was hitless on Wednesday, but is batting .303 this year. Burriss and Lewis combined for three hits.
"The kids are playing well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It seems like they are getting the sense of belonging in the Major Leagues and playing great ball."
Not included among the numerous Giants rookies is Lincecum, though he's only 24 years old. In just more than a year of big league time, the righty has established himself as a stopper. In 19 starts following a Giants loss, Lincecum is 11-2 with a sub-3.00 ERA.
With eight strikeouts in eight innings of two-run ball Wednesday, he increased his Major League-leading total to 175 while also upping his Cy Young stock. He's fanned at least eight batters in each of his past five starts.
"Well, it's still early," Bochy said. "At this point, he has thrown the ball as well as anybody in the game. There's no question. I mean, he's going to get real strong consideration."
After allowing a run apiece in the fifth and sixth innings, Lincecum entered the eighth with a one-run lead to face the heart of the Braves' order. He promptly struck out the side, including a 10-pitch battle with Omar Infante which ended with Infante whiffing on a nasty slider to close the frame.
Brian Wilson played his part in the ninth, retiring the side in order for his NL-leading 32nd save. He's converted his past 23 save chances and, somewhat surprisingly considering his penchant for dramatics, has had 1-2-3 innings in his last three outings.
Though Lincecum's fastball wasn't at it's speediest, he mixed his pitches well, including a changeup that he continues to improve as the season progresses.
"Whether my fastball is 91 [mph] or 95 [mph], it's all about spotting your fastball, not how fast it is," Lincecum said. "[My changeup] is something that I've been working on for a long time now, and I'm feeling more comfortable with it every day."
The only smudge on Lincecum's line were his four walks, forcing him to throw 117 pitches. It's the sixth time this year he's thrown more than 115 pitches and the seventh time in his past eight outings that he's thrown more than 110.
But Lincecum insists he's not tiring, and the Giants won't complain if he doesn't.
The Giants' day started on a high note despite Lincecum allowing a walk and two singles in the first. Lewis nailed Casey Kotchman at home with a perfect throw from left field to end the frame, and Aaron Rowand put a couple runs on the board with a home run off Chuck James, who lasted just four innings. It was Rowand's first homer since July 18, a span of 58 at-bats. Rowand, a right-hander, is an opposite-field hitter. That's not conducive to hitting dingers in AT&T Park.
"If they come, they come," Rowand said. "I stopped worrying about that a long time ago."
With a sacrifice fly that scored Randy Winn in the third, Rowand notched his third RBI of the game. Winn chipped in with four hits, including the 1,500th of his career in the first.
The Giants young players have taken most of the credit for the team's recent success -- and rightfully so -- but Winn's been holding his own. He's got 10 hits in the past four games.
"He's got the whole game and he's swinging the bat well right now," Bochy said. "He plays both sides of the ball so well. It doesn't matter where you hit him."
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.