SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants prepared for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday at AT&T Park, one of their former teammates was in the midst of his quest to advance to the World Series.Bengie Molina, who spent three-plus seasons with the Giants before being traded to the Rangers on July 1, was playing in New York in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, as Texas tried to clinch the pennant. Molina, 36, was a clubhouse favorite in San Francisco and a key component in the growth of Giants starting pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez. In both of his NL Cy Young Award-winning seasons, Lincecum gave Molina credit for putting him in position to succeed. On Wednesday, before the Giants tried to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Phillies, Lincecum said he'll always owe a great deal to Molina. "He's definitely molded me into a better pitcher," Lincecum said. "He's the one calling the pitches and I'm the one agreeing, and obviously I get the last say and everything, but if it hadn't been for him reading all the batters, knowing how the batters swing, he's a seasoned vet that knows a lot about every single guy that comes up." With the Giants and Rangers each among the final four teams standing, there is a chance Molina could face his former team, as well as step into the batter's box against the standout pitchers he helped mold. Truthfully, Lincecum said he wasn't sure how he would pitch to his former battery mate. "Obviously, I've seen him just save my butt a few times in games with home runs on low pitches and just funky pitches, pitches out of the zone," Lincecum said. "I don't know. Maybe I'll just throw them right down the middle and maybe I'll get away with it. We'll see."
Sparkplugs Rowand, Renteria back in lineup
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants stuck with the two veterans who sparked their Game 3 win against the Phillies, as skipper Bruce Bochy opted to once again start center fielder Aaron Rowand and shortstop Edgar Renteria in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on Wednesday.Renteria remained in the Giants' leadoff spot, while Rowand batted eighth. After juggling the middle of their lineup Tuesday against Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, they tweaked it again Wednesday against right-hander Joe Blanton, moving Aubrey Huff to the three-hole, Buster Posey down to the cleanup spot and Pat Burrell to the No. 5 hole. Cody Ross hit sixth, while Pablo Sandoval got the start at third base and batted seventh in place of Juan Uribe, who admitted to Bochy earlier in the day that he wasn't quite 100 percent. "It was evident [Tuesday] the wrist was bothering him," Bochy said of Uribe's left wrist, which he injured in Game 1. "I could tell with his swinging. I talked to him today, and he admitted it's still bothering him." Bochy also said he opted to keep Rowand in the lineup over regular Andres Torres, who is 3-for-26 in the postseason, including a groundout in a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday. Bochy said Torres' at-bat Tuesday was not a factor in his decision. "I just like the way Aaron's been swinging the bat, even though he hasn't been in the games, but watching him, and of course, yesterday getting a big double there," Bochy said. "Andres, I think it's fair to say he's going through some struggles right now at the plate, so I decided to stick with Aaron."
Lincecum grateful for SF fan support
SAN FRANCISCO -- Throughout the season as the Giants clawed their way to the National League West title, some fans and reporters noted the difference between this year's team and rosters of the past.While other recent great San Francisco teams were built around Barry Bonds and other sluggers, this squad was fashioned around a dominant pitching rotation, headlined by Tim Lincecum. Aside from Bonds and Lincecum being the marquee names on their respective teams, they also share a standing as the Bay Area's favorite player. Prior to Wednesday's Game 4 of the NL Championship Series, Lincecum spoke of how appreciative he is of how San Francisco has embraced him during his four years here. "This city has taken me in ... as one of their own," Lincecum said. "Even in my mistakes and my faults and things that I've said wrong or done wrong, they've accepted me and still rooted us on and rooted myself on. I can't say enough about the city. It's been great to me, the opportunities I've had here, the way people have embraced me. It's been great." Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it's easy to see why Giants fans are so enamored with Lincecum. "He's unique with his stature and how well he throws, and fans love to see a kid like this have success," Bochy said. "I enjoy watching him. I'm a baseball fan when he's out there. So no question, anytime you have an impact type player like Timmy or any great player, it does a lot for the fans to come out and watch."
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.