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04/17/10 10:24 PM ET
Lincecum's arm, bat lead Giants to win
Cy Young winner tallies three RBIs, pitches six shutout frames
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Tim Lincecum's dominance of his opponents this season can be captured by several sets of numbers. He has issued three walks while striking out 24 batters in 20 innings. He has more RBIs (three) than runs allowed (two). He prevented the leadoff batter from reaching base in each of his first 18 innings. Overall, he has accomplished that in every inning he has pitched except one. The Giants savor a different Lincecum-generated statistic. That would be 3-0, which was his record Saturday after San Francisco cruised past the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-0. This was one of the most singular performances of Lincecum's exceedingly singular career. He drove in three runs and amassed three hits, both career highs. Moreover, he fashioned his six-inning effort by altering his pitching style, reminding witnesses that his versatility rivals his skill. Lincecum struck out seven, limited the Dodgers to four hits and allowed only two runners to reach second base not by throwing his changeup at crucial junctures, as he has done recently, but by varying his deliveries more than usual. Since this was Lincecum's eighth career appearance against the Dodgers, he and catcher Bengie Molina believed that they needed to change patterns. "Every time you face a team that's faced you a lot, it's going to be harder every time," Molina said. "Today, instead of trying to strike out everybody with the changeup -- they were all waiting for it with two strikes -- we had to mix [in] the fastball. Then hopefully they'd lay off the changeup for a little bit and start looking fastball, then we'd use the change. It's all about mixing it up." Consider the Dodgers sufficiently confused. Lincecum did some of his best pitching against Matt Kemp, who had homered in four consecutive games. Kemp, who entered Saturday 1-for-12 lifetime against Lincecum, struck out in his first two at-bats before dribbling an infield single in his final plate appearance against the right-hander. "His velocity is down a little bit, but he's still a darn good pitcher," Kemp said. "He's got a funky little motion and hides the ball real well. You see a lot of people, especially me, swing through a 90-mph fastball. That's average velocity, but with his motion it's hard to pick up. Then it's like, how did I miss that pitch? And when he can't throw a fastball for a strike, he can throw the changeup or the curve for a strike." Lincecum was conscious of the danger Kemp presented. "I was throwing him a lot of pitches down in the zone, stuff where he couldn't see anything but up over the top of the ball and [would] have to make adjustments off that," said Lincecum, who trimmed his ERA to 0.90. Curiously, the Dodgers rested regulars Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Russell Martin and Manny Ramirez against Lincecum. Granted, Ramirez was nursing a right calf injury, and the others might have needed a break in a day game following a night game. Regardless of who played, the fact remained that Lincecum helped the Giants hold Los Angeles, which led the Major Leagues with a .320 batting average, to less than 10 hits for only the third time in 11 games. The Giants weren't sure what to expect from themselves at the plate, due to the novelty of facing a knuckleballer, right-hander Charlie Haeger. Suffice it to say that Haeger lacked the effectiveness he displayed last Sunday, when he struck out 12 at Florida. San Francisco initially wasted oodles of offense, scoring just once in the first two innings although seven batters reached base safely. That run came courtesy of Lincecum, who deftly pushed a bunt single past Haeger in the second inning to score Molina. "I was thinking sacrifice," Lincecum said. "It just happened to be hard enough to get past the pitcher." After Lincecum provided a two-run single that was the biggest hit in the Giants' four-run third inning, he drilled another single in the fifth and struck out in the seventh inning. Not bad for a guy who didn't practice hitting at all while playing for the University of Washington from 2004-06. "He really does a lot of good things with the bat," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He could be our best bunter." Lincecum, who improved to 4-1 lifetime against the Dodgers, said he approached this game as he would any other. But given the Giants' series-opening loss Friday night, he ultimately realized that their triumph bore a little extra significance. "Coming off that [defeat] and just knowing that it's L.A., I think those two things right there make it a big game," Lincecum said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.