Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Giants postgame notes: Giants take series opener from Braves behind ‘vintage Timmy’

05/13/2014 12:12 AM

05/13/2014 12:17 AM

Bruce Bochy said watching Tim Lincecum pitch in the Giants’ 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night was like seeing "vintage Timmy." Vintage in everything from the line -- 7 2/3 innings, two hits, one run -- to the strikeouts -- 11, his first double-digit game since last July -- to the ovation as he left the mound with two outs in the eighth inning, probably the loudest at AT&T Park all season.

"Yeah, it’s pretty special here," Lincecum said. "I’m not one to be the big acknowledger of something like that, it’s kind of hard for me, but I definitely take it in and appreciate it.

"It would’ve been nice," he added with a grin, "if I’d gotten through that last batter."

Lincecum got ahead of Jason Heyward, 0-2, with two outs in the eighth but lost Heyward to a walk, which brought Bochy out of the dugout to get him at 113 pitches. Aside from a mis-spun slider that B.J. Upton lined over the left-field wall in the fifth, it might’ve been Lincecum’s only mistake all night -- certainly the only one he paid for.

Coming off a rough start in Pittsburgh, where he allowed four runs on eight hits in four innings, Lincecum had his best outing of the year. Before Monday, he hadn’t lasted past the sixth in any of his seven starts this season. His previous high in strikeouts this season was seven.

"He had a good tempo going, good delivery going, really kept the ball down well, threw quality strikes," Bochy said. "And it was pretty nice to see him get that ovation."

For much of the night, Lincecum’s body language told the story. He spun off the mound after getting the final outs of innings and turned complete 180s after some deliveries. The latter might have had a practical purpose -- Lincecum said he "felt like I was actually finishing my pitches when I would pirouette more than anything, like I was driving my back leg through my front one."

Lincecum said he felt himself finishing pitches more consistently Monday night. He also located better and had a "slider-curveball thing" that was working particularly well. He said he got an idea of the latter in the first inning, when Justin Upton swung through two of them, and that he "just kind of leaned on it" from then on.

The Braves aren’t shy about swinging the bat -- they rank fifth in the league in strikeouts -- and Lincecum said he was "just trying to be aggressive with my stuff in the zone, and when they started taking hacks I stuck with the (slider) and it worked out for the best."

"Even from left field I could see that his stuff was moving all over the place," said Tyler Colvin, who homered and drove in three runs to back Lincecum in his AT&T Park debut.

"We just saw Timmy pitch," said closer Sergio Romo. "We saw Timmy control the zone, especially with his breaking balls, his off-speed, and he was able to establish his fastball, too. So vintage Timmy, yeah, the competitor’s there."

Bochy said he didn’t catch himself thinking of Lincecum’s 14-strikeout evisceration of the Braves on this field in the 2010 N.L. Division Series. Still, of his 36 10-plus strikeout games, Lincecum has now recorded four against Atlanta. He’s 23-2 in his career when he reaches the double-digit plateau.

Lincecum had been the lone Giants starter this season not to work past the sixth inning, and said the longer outing was something "I’ve been looking for." He said he couldn’t think of another start this season where he has had as many pitches working as he did Monday night.

"I guess the result was the best of anything I’ve had so far, so it’s easy to kind of lean on that," he said. "But I’m happy with that."

• For Colvin, it was a nice way to introduce himself to the AT&T Park crowd. In his first home at-bat as a Giant, the left-hander hit a 1-1 pitch from Braves starter Gavin Floyd for a solo home run into McCovey Cove, the 65th splash hit at the park and first for Colvin.

"Did it actually, like, go in without a bounce?" Colvin said when asked about the homer. "Nice, man. That’s pretty cool right there."

Colvin also broke a 1-1 tie with what proved to be the game-winning hit with a two-run triple in the seventh. Hector Sanchez led off with a single and Brandon Crawford reached on an error by Freddie Freeman, giving the Giants two on with no outs. Colvin thought he might be asked to bunt, but was quickly told to swing away.

After falling behind 0-2, Colvin pulled an offspeed pitch past the diving Freeman into the right-field corner and legged out a triple as both runners scored. The Giants said Colvin is the first player to homer and hit a triple in his first home game with the team since Darrell Evans did it on June 23, 1976, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Though Colvin’s by no means new to the majors, having spent parts of the last five years with the Cubs and Rockies, he said Monday night ranked "pretty high up there" in terms of career games. "To be a part of a winning ballclub and get the this I did right there and help Timmy out, I felt pretty good about it," he said.

"Today was kind of Tyler’s day," Lincecum said. "It’s special because he hasn’t been with us too long, and it’s awesome to see him do something like that."

Coming hours before Brandon Belt’s scheduled surgery on his broken left thumb, it may have also eased, at least for a night, some of the concerns about losing Belt for at least six weeks and maybe more. While the Giants hope Michael Morse can fill in adequately for Belt on defense -- and the combination of Colvin and Gregor Blanco in left field is likely actually an upgrade defensively -- the bigger challenge is making up for Belt’s absence in the lineup, where Belt had hit a team-high nine homers and driven in 18 runs.

Most of his at-bats will now basically go to whoever’s playing left field on a given night, so to see Colvin come up big Monday had to be encouraging for the Giants. Bochy said the lineup might look different Tuesday with the Giants facing a lefty. Still, Colvin said he’s excited about the prospect of more starts -- whenever they come.

"Any time you have an opportunity to get playing time up here it’s a great opportunity," he said. "You definitely want to take advantage of it."

• A day after blowing his first save of the season in Los Angeles, Romo came on to get the final three outs Monday, retiring the Braves’ 4-5-6 hitters in order after Freeman had homered off Javier Lopez to make it a two-run game.

"Believe me, he politicked for that," Bochy said of Romo. "He said he was good to go, he wanted to pitch. Good bounce-back for him."

Romo had converted his first 12 save chances before surrendering Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homer in the ninth inning Sunday. He said he lobbied to get in Monday night because he "just felt like I needed to pitch again.

"The situation called for my role to step in and I really wanted to get in there," he said. "I don’t ever like to fail or not get the job done like yesterday, but one of the best ways to forget is to get right back out there and do it again. So I was just looking for another opportunity and I was fortunate to get one tonight."

• Bochy had praise after the game for Hector Sanchez, who caught Lincecum’s outing and had one of the key plays of the game throwing out B.J. Upton trying to steal third with one out in the seventh.

Among the compliments, Bochy said that Sanchez, who came into spring training in 2013 likely heavier than he should have and battled a sore shoulder for part of the season, is "as improved a player as I’ve seen over a winter. (He) came into camp and just looked very determined to be a different player."

Upton was originally ruled safe on the seventh-inning steal, but the Giants challenged the play and it was overturned after a two-minute, seven-second review. Bochy said he opted to challenge without knowing for sure Pablo Sandoval had tagged Upton, but at that point in a 1-1 game, "I’ve got really nothing to lose."

"That was probably the turning point in the game, I think," Lincecum said. "We don’t get that out, that’s a man on third, one out, anything can happen after that. That was crucial."

• Michael Morse’s first start at first base was a mixed bag. He was charged with an error in the sixth when Jason Heyward’s chopper hit the bag in front of Morse and hopped over his shoulder. But Morse handled a couple other ground balls and all throws his way. So all in all, not a terrible day for a guy with eight games at the position since 2011.
• Bochy had Javier Lopez start the ninth for the sole purpose of facing Freeman, who put together an eight-pitch at-bat before homering on an 86 mph fastball into McCovey Cove. According to the Giants, it’s the first game with two Splash Hit home runs since May 18, 2002. That day, Barry Bonds accounted for both by himself.
• The pitching matchup for game two of the series is Ryan Vogelsong (1-1, 3.93) and the Braves’ left-hander Mike Minor (0-2, 6.97). First pitch at 7:15 p.m.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at mkawahara@sacbee.com. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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