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04/12/10 12:41 AM ET
Lincecum fans 10 in domination of Braves
Sandoval contributes three hits after lengthy rain delay
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Most teams would have considered Sunday's conditions at AT&T Park miserable for baseball. For the Giants, who defeated the Atlanta Braves, 6-3, the setting was near-perfect. The rain that delayed the first pitch for four hours and nine minutes drenched the field so much that the teams seriously considered a postponement, despite the massive logistical challenge of rescheduling the game. But the Giants' grounds crew worked diligently to make the surface playable. That gave Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval another opportunity to excel and prove that they're immune to inconveniences such as bad weather and idle time. Lincecum (2-0), forced to pitch in amphibious conditions while growing up in Washington state, displayed his Cy Young Award-winning form by striking out 10 in seven innings. It was the 20th double-digit strikeout total of his brief but brilliant career. Sitting around waiting to pitch was fine with Lincecum, who occupied himself by playing Golden Tee. "And a 30-minute nap was in there someplace," the perpetually calm right-hander said. Sandoval, who hadn't made authoritative contact despite hitting safely in each of the Giants' first five games, found his stroke. He went 3-for-4, contributed to each of San Francisco's scoring innings and lacked only a double for the cycle. Sandoval acknowledged that the soggy, 50-degree afternoon was the worst setting he had ever encountered for a ballgame. Yet the Venezuelan didn't care. "I liked it," Sandoval said, "because I kept myself warm a little bit more and I didn't get tired too quick." Sandoval's day included a long fourth-inning triple, a sharp opposite-field single past third base in the sixth inning and a loud two-run homer in the eighth that penetrated the stiff breeze blowing in from right field. "This game, for me, was the start for everything," declared Sandoval, who admitted that he had been overanxious at the plate. Nobody, it appears, will ever accuse Lincecum of being overanxious, as his pregame regimen proved. If anything, the prolonged delay may have helped him. "For us, it couldn't happen to a better guy. He's just so laid back," catcher Bengie Molina said. "He doesn't care if there's a thunderstorm. He'll be ready when it's his turn." Lincecum initially looked vulnerable as Brian McCann hit a monstrous two-run homer with two outs in the first inning that took the same path and defied the same wind that Sandoval's drive did seven innings later. "It went farther," Lincecum said of Sandoval's clout, "so it made me feel better about giving up that home run." After McCann's homer, the first surrendered by Lincecum at home since Colorado's Seth Smith victimized him on Sept. 23, 2008, Atlanta got nowhere. Lincecum, who allowed five hits and walked one, relied on his changeup and permitted only two Braves to reach second base in his final six innings. He finished with a flourish by striking out the side in the seventh. "He's the best pitcher in the game," McCann said. "It was almost like he turned on another gear after the home run. His changeup is close to unhittable." The Giants' freshly imported veterans also played key roles. Aubrey Huff's fourth-inning RBI single and sixth-inning walk helped San Francisco score its first three runs after two were out. Mark DeRosa, batting .188 at the time, sliced an RBI single in the sixth. San Francisco's 5-1 record in the season's first week reaffirmed the players' belief in each other. "It's a good group," Molina said. "We don't care who's out there pitching. We don't care who we're playing. We just go out and have fun and try to put together good at-bats." Leaving the impression that the rain stopped just long enough to accommodate the Giants, showers resumed an instant after left-hander Jeremy Affeldt's game-ending strikeout of Matt Diaz. "It's an epic moment when you [throw] strike three and it's a straight downpour like that," Affeldt said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.