Without top velocity, Lincecum still effective
Right-hander struck out five over seven shutout innings in loss
SAN DIEGO -- Tim Lincecum doesn't light up radar guns anymore. But he proved Friday night that he still can illuminate scoreboards with zeroes.
Lincecum maintained his career-long dominance against the San Diego Padres, limiting them to four singles in seven innings. But Padres starter Brandon Morrow duplicated Lincecum's effort as the Giants lost, 1-0, on Wil Myers' eighth-inning RBI double off Jeremy Affeldt.
The Giants were forced to comfort themselves with the belief that they'll win most games behind pitching performances such as Lincecum's.
He allowed just three runners to reach scoring position, with two of them reaching second base on steals. Left fielder Nori Aoki contributed admirable defense by ranging into the gap to rob Derek Norris of a fifth-inning extra-base hit. Otherwise, Lincecum muted the Padres mostly on his own, coaxing two double-play grounders and striking out five.
Lincecum continued the process, which has occupied him for the last few years, of surviving with diminished velocity. His fastball hovered in the 85- to 88-mph range, which is batting-practice speed to most hitters. But Lincecum's heater still kept the Padres swinging late, largely because he maintained command (60 strikes in 96 pitches) and deception.
"I got some fastballs by guys that set up my off-speed pitches," Lincecum said. "... I don't think I leaned on any one pitch more than the other."
As a result, Lincecum performed with unusual economy. He retired nine hitters on three pitches or fewer, avoiding the pitfall of tiring himself prematurely by running up an inflated pitch count after just a few innings.
"I know they're a very aggressive team against me," Lincecum said. "Obviously, they like to swing at me. So I just tried to keep the ball down in the zone, keep [moving pitches] in and out."
As a result, Lincecum shrank his career ERA against San Diego to 2.41 at Petco Park and 2.20 overall.
"Some things are hard to explain in this game, and that's one of them," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Lincecum's non-stop success against the Padres.
But Lincecum emerged winless. The Giants mustered four hits in seven innings off Morrow, an innocent bystander to considerable angst generated in Seattle in 2006 when the Mariners drafted him in the first round instead of Lincecum, the hometown kid.
Then came the eighth, when Affeldt's one-out walk to pinch-hitter Clint Barmes preceded Myers' drive off the base of the right-field wall. The carom briefly eluded Gregor Blanco, giving Barmes additional time to head home. Second baseman Joe Panik's one-hop relay veered up the third-base line and reached catcher Hector Sanchez at the same time Barmes did. Barmes ran through Sanchez's outstretched arm as if it were a turnstile and scored as the ball flew past.
"You have to think about the ball and the runner," Sanchez said, explaining the difficulty he faced. "I tried to focus on the ball and tried to tag him at the same time [in] one motion."
Bochy summarized matters succinctly. "If [Panik] gets a good throw off, he's out by 10 feet," he said.