SAN FRANCISCO On a day when the Giants needed a lift, Tim Lincecum reverted to his first-half form. Lincecum lasted just four innings in a 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals that clinched the Giants' third series loss in their last four at AT&T Park.
The outing was the sixth time this season that Lincecum failed to complete five innings, but it was only his second such start since July 8. Lincecum entered the day with a 2.72 ERA in six second-half starts but gave up eight hits, including three in the two-run first inning in which he needed 38 pitches.
"They just foul-balled me to death," Lincecum said.
Lincecum's first-half struggles came largely because of his inability to put hitters away, and that problem returned in the third inning. With two outs and two strikes, he threw a 91-mph fastball that Danny Espinosa crushed into the stands in deep right-center field for a tiebreaking two-run homer.
"That blow by Espinosa in the third was crushing," Lincecum said. "I was just battling through those four innings, not throwing a lot of quality strikes when I needed to and not putting guys away when I thought I should have."
Lincecum's early exit scuttled a marquee pitching matchup between two of the game's most recognizable names. Stephen Strasburg did his part, giving up just two runs on four hits through six innings.
"He throws hard and he hides the ball well," Buster Posey said. "He was good today."
The Giants dropped out of first place for the first time since July 13, and they'll need all hands on deck as they head back on the road.
"We're going to need him," Posey said of Lincecum. "He's going to be big for us as well, this last month and a half."
Bochy said he anticipated increasing Posey's workload over the final 44 games. Posey often has played first base on days when Lincecum started, but the Giants' best lineup at the moment includes both Posey and Brandon Belt, who is 16 for 34 over the past 10 games.
"It certainly helps with the way Brandon is swinging the bat," Bochy said.
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