The Giants needed some kind of spark after losing 10 of 14 games to start the season, and manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday afternoon he hoped the arrival of the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers – winners of seven straight before their first visit to AT&T Park this year – might provide it.
“It’s early, but it’s the Giant-Dodger deal. We’ve got to get on track, and this could be part of it,” Bochy said. “We’re playing a team that’s hot. We’re going to see good pitching. So it’s going to be important that we raise our level of play.”
The Giants then played one of their better all-around games of the season Tuesday night in a 6-2 win over their division rivals. Tim Lincecum allowed one run over six innings, the lineup collected 13 hits and knocked out Dodgers left-hander Brett Anderson after four innings, and for just the second time this season, the voice of Tony Bennett accompanied the AT&T Park crowd to the exits following a win.
The Giants avoided matching their worst 15-game start in the San Francisco era and gave the Dodgers their first loss in more than a week before today’s marquee pitching matchup between last season’s National League MVP, Clayton Kershaw, and the reigning World Series MVP, Madison Bumgarner – the first of its kind in major-league history, according to STATS LLC.
Lincecum rebounded from a difficult start against Colorado last week to earn his first win of 2015 against a Dodgers team that hammered him for a 6.16 ERA in their previous six meetings. Lincecum allowed runners in all six of his innings but induced four double plays and struck out five to skirt serious damage.
The fourth double play, on Lincecum’s 85th and final pitch, was a highlight-reel sequence started by shortstop Brandon Crawford, who dived for Howie Kendrick’s sharp grounder up the middle and glove-flipped it to second baseman Joe Panik. Panik’s relay to first just beat Kendrick, and Lincecum clenched both fists in a spasm of emotion before turning toward the dugout.
It was an important moment. The Dodgers had just scored their first run off Lincecum in the fifth on Alex Guerrero’s pinch-hit double, and Lincecum was facing the heart of the Los Angeles order for the third time. Yasiel Puig started the sixth with a single, but Lincecum struck out red-hot Adrian Gonzalez swinging before Kendrick’s double play.
Puig came up again with two on in the eighth against Sergio Romo and hit a fly ball into the right-field corner that Justin Maxwell caught on a slide, banging his left knee into the base of the wall. With Gonzalez representing the tying run, Javier Lopez entered and got the first baseman to ground out and end the inning.
Maxwell then extended the lead in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run homer off Pedro Baez, his first as a Giant.
Maxwell also got the offense started with a two-out triple in the second. Crawford followed with a drag-bunt single for his team-high eighth RBI. Buster Posey’s seeing-eye single through the left side scored Panik for a 2-0 lead in the third.
Two more runs scored on an 80-foot single by Nori Aoki in the fourth. Aoki would have beaten Gonzalez’s flip to first base anyway, but the ball got past Anderson covering the bag, and Crawford sprinted home from second base on Gonzalez’s error.
Pence’s return delayed – Bochy said before the game a May 1 return for right fielder Hunter Pence is no longer realistic.
After suffering a fractured forearm March 5, Pence initially hoped he could be back within six to eight weeks. Bochy said Pence is “making progress” and has begun some baseball activities but still needs to hit off a tee, then take soft toss before he’s ready to face live pitching. After that, Pence will likely need a minor-league rehabilitation assignment before he rejoins the Giants.
Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.