Gritty Giants overcome Lincecum's rare blip
In midst of revival, maturing righty picks up win thanks to seven-run rally
MILWAUKEE -- Tim Lincecum's career revival took a bit of a detour in Monday's 8-4 Giants victory over the Brewers, but San Francisco is going so well that Lincecum was not only taken off the hook, he became the winning pitcher.
The Giants have won 12 of their last 17, including an eight-game winning streak that ended with a loss on Saturday night. But their situation did not look all that promising on Memorial Day when Lincecum departed the game after five innings, with San Francisco trailing Milwaukee, 4-1.
Lincecum entered the game with a 2.08 ERA. He had given up no runs in three of his previous four starts. And over his first eight starts, he had given up just one home run, back on April 15. Here, however, he gave up two solo home runs to left fielder Khris Davis and a two-run home run to right fielder Ryan Braun.
Braun's blast to left-center in the fifth seemed just barely sub-orbital. It traveled 474 feet, making it the fourth-longest home run in the 15-year history of Miller Park, and the longest home run hit in this park by a right-handed hitter.
But in the end, this sort of thing would be a mere footnote for this game. The Giants wasted no time, coming back in the top of the sixth, with a remarkable seven-run rally that included seven hits -- six of them singles -- two walks and two errors by Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez, who just two seasons ago won a National League Gold Glove Award.
"It's exciting to watch guys go up there and take good hacks, especially on a tough day like this," Lincecum said. "They just kind of fed off their own energy. It was exciting to watch. Obviously, it's not very often that you run across a seven-run inning."
The "tough day" comment was in reference to the Giants' recent experience in Colorado, where during a weekend series they sat through more than seven hours of rain delays, including one Sunday. The team did not reach Milwaukee until early Monday morning and then had a day game to play.
"You know what? We had the rain delays in Colorado and travel, and lack of sleep, I guess," said catcher Andrew Susac, who drove in the tying run in the seven-run rally. "It was a pretty gutsy effort from us to come right back and put some runs on the board and respond after a home run like [Braun's]."
"[Milwaukee starter Kyle] Lohse was throwing the ball very well, really hitting his spots," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "But it got contagious there in the sixth. It was a tough travel day; you get in here at 1 in the morning and then come out here and face a tough pitcher like that. We just put together some good at-bats, and it was a nice comeback.
"Timmy wasn't quite on today. He hadn't been giving up the long ball; today he gave up three. But it ended up being a good, hard-fought win. It's all about going hard for nine."
Lincecum has been in the midst of a successful transition from being a power pitcher to being a finesse pitcher. Part of his success in his first eight starts stemmed from not giving up home runs.
"I think it's the variety of pitches I throw, and I'm not afraid to throw them in any situation, so it's hard for guys to sit on one pitch," Lincecum said.
Lincecum's stuff was generally good on Monday, but mistakes were made on individual pitches. Lincecum said that Davis' first home run was on a good pitch, a fastball down and away, but his second home run and Braun's homer "were not good pitches."
"I just didn't finish off the pitches the way I like to," Lincecum said. "Fastball running middle-in to Braun, and a curveball that kind of hung over the plate to Khris.'"
This performance aside, Lincecum, the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2008 and '09, looks like he is on his way to his best season since 2011, when he posted a 2.74 ERA over 217 innings. And he is succeeding as a dramatically changed pitcher.
"He's reinvented himself, really," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "He's a different pitcher. He was power/fastball. He's not power/fastball anymore. The split-finger is huge for him. He's a different pitcher, and we've got to recognize that. You always appreciate guys who go through some struggles and find another way to have success. He's doing that right now. He's going to try to get you out in a different way."
Even on a day when the reinvented Lincecum had some difficulties, the rest of the Giants were available to pick him up and find an alternate route to victory.