San Francisco Giants

April 4, 2013

46 strikes + 45 balls = wild win for Lincecum

Tim Lincecum's official return to the rotation after his bullpen dalliance last postseason was anything but smooth.

LOS ANGELES – Tim Lincecum had already walked the opposing pitcher and had the bases loaded with one out, down a run, trouble howling at the door. It was the kind of inning that snowballed for Lincecum last year, a hallmark of the most trying season of his career.

But not Wednesday night. With the Dodgers poised to open the game up in the second inning, Lincecum retired the next two hitters, including slugger Matt Kemp on a flyout to end the threat. The next inning, the Giants scored four times and made a winner of Lincecum, 5-3, in the rubber match of the opening series at Dodger Stadium.

"It is really satisfying for us," Lincecum said of the series win. "We wanted to come in here and make a statement."

Lincecum's official return to the rotation after his bullpen dalliance last postseason was anything but smooth. After setting a career-high in walks (90) last year, Lincecum issued seven in his first start of 2013, yet departed after five innings with an ERA of zero.

The right-hander allowed three hits, and both runs scored against him – on a Hector Sanchez passed ball and a sacrifice fly – were unearned.

The work Lincecum did over the winter to build up his strength showed in a fastball that hovered from 91-93 mph most of the night. But he struggled to control it, throwing 46 of his 91 pitches for strikes and facing 17 of 26 hitters out of the stretch.

Still, Lincecum managed to limit damage in a way that eluded him last season, when big innings inflated his ERA (5.18) to the highest among qualified National League pitchers. Nowhere was that more evident than the second inning, when he struck out Skip Schumaker on three pitches and got Kemp to fly out to leave the bases loaded.

"I wouldn't get out of those two-on, no-out situations (last year)," Lincecum said. "They'd just kind of eat me alive and maybe I'd give up three or four (runs).

"Making the transition from last year to this year, I think that's the difference you have to pay attention to – that I have to pay attention to."

Marco Scutaro's sliding play to rob Schumaker of a hit got Lincecum out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth inning. Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez reached to start the fifth on a walk and an error by Buster Posey – making his first start of the season at first base – but Lincecum induced three flyouts, one of which scored Kemp.

"He battled," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think that's the best way to describe Tmmy's effort. Great effort. A little off at times, but he competed so well tonight."

The Giants tagged Dodgers starter Josh Beckett for four runs in the third inning, starting when Gregor Blanco singled and Brandon Crawford doubled for the Giants' first extra-base hit of the season – in their 72nd at-bat.

They didn't wait long for their second. After Lincecum grounded out to score Blanco and Angel Pagan reached on an error, scoring Crawford, third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit a letter-high fastball from Beckett over the fence in right field. Hunter Pence homered two innings later.

The Giants still needed some strong relief outings. Jose Mijares faced three batters in the sixth inning and retired none. Bochy called on George Kontos – who gave up the tie-breaking homer on Opening Day – to face Kemp with the bases loaded and nobody out, and Kontos induced a double play.

Javier Lopez struck out Gonzalez to end the sixth. Chad Gaudin pitched two scoreless innings in his Giants debut, striking out Kemp to end the eighth, and Sergio Romo threw a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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