San Francisco Giants

Justin Maxwell leads Giants’ all-around effort in 6-2 win over Dodgers

San Francisco Giants' Justin Maxwell points skyward after a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in San Francisco.
San Francisco Giants' Justin Maxwell points skyward after a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in San Francisco. AP

Justin Maxwell grew up a Giants fan in Maryland, the result of a father who admired Willie Mays. On Tuesday, Maxwell got his first taste of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry and had a night worth savoring.

Starting in right field, Maxwell went 2-for-3 with a triple and a loud two-run home run in the Giants’ 6-2 win. The eighth-inning homer came after Maxwell made a sliding catch in the right-field corner in the top of the inning, banging into the wall to record an important out with Yasiel Puig up as the potential tying run in a 4-1 game.

As a result of the impact, Maxwell wore a large wrap on his left knee after the game, and said he had a "little gash, and probably a bruise." He said he’ll probably feel it more on Wednesday, but that won’t keep him from a date with Clayton Kershaw. Manager Bruce Bochy affirmed Maxwell will be back in the lineup against the Dodgers’ ace.

"He’ll be back out there tomorrow," Bochy said. "It’s nice when these guys get a start and they take advantage of it."

Bochy and shortstop Brandon Crawford both said they didn’t think Maxwell had a shot to catch Puig’s fly ball off the bat. Maxwell, though, said he recalled some of the earliest advice he got from outfielders coach Roberto Kelly about right field at AT&T Park.

"He said usually all the foul balls that go toward the first-base foul line usually come back into play," Maxwell said. "So I was busting it over there, because I figured I was going to have a chance."

One thing Kelly did not warn him about: The padding on the right-field wall does not go all the way down to the warning track.

"I quickly found out there’s four inches or so that’s unpadded," Maxwell said.

Maxwell stayed down for a while but stayed in the game. He came up in the bottom of the inning with Andrew Susac on second base and crushed a fastball from reliever Pedro Baez an estimated 425 feet to left field.

"He got around on a mid-to-upper-90s fastball," Crawford said. "Pretty impressive."

The 31-year-old said it was "cool to be a part of the rivalry" that he grew up following. Maxwell signed with the Giants this offseason largely because they were the first team to express an interest in him when he hit free agency after 2014, and Maxwell described that interest in more detail Tuesday night. He said new GM Bobby Evans played a big part by "expressing his desire to want me to play here" and the Giants helped him rehab from hip surgery he underwent last year.

"I felt like they wanted me to be a part of this club, and I’m real thankful," Maxwell said.

Lincecum acknowledged he didn’t know much before this spring about Maxwell, who spent last season with the Royals.

"He’s bounced around a little bit," Lincecum said. "It’s nice to see him find a home with us and doing well."

* Lincecum also had a good night, bouncing back from a difficult start against Colorado to allow one run in six innings. He put runners on in every inning but skirted danger by inducing four double plays, a career-high and the most by a Giant since Livan Hernandez against the Rockies on Sept. 4, 2002.

"I wasn’t making great pitches," Lincecum said, "but they happened to go to the right people at the right time."

It seems like Lincecum’s "evolution" as a pitcher is a constant topic, and it was brought up again after this outing. He was consistently in the high 80s with his fastball and was not dominant by any means, but was able to get ground balls when he needed them to get out of jams.

"You pitch with your stuff," Bochy said. "It’s not all about velocity, it’s more about command and having some pitches to work with, and Timmy has that. He was missing his spots at times, but kept his poise out there and made pitches when he had to.

"He’s got good movement on his fastball, he’s got a good breaking ball, curveball, slider and a changeup. He uses all of them, and that’s the way he needs to pitch … If this is where he’s settled in, it’ll work if you command the ball."

One encouraging stat for Lincecum: He has allowed just four earned runs in 18 innings in his first three starts this season, good for a 2.00 ERA that’s his lowest through three starts to begin a season since he had a 1.86 mark in 2011.

"I haven’t had any games where I felt I was going to overpower anybody with my stuff this year," Lincecum said. "It’s just about pitch-ability, and making good pitches when you have to, and putting the bad ones behind you when you can and moving on."

* Glove-flip double plays are becoming almost commonplace with this middle infield. Tuesday night it was Brandon Crawford diving for Howie Kendrick’s sharp grounder up the middle and flipping to Joe Panik, whose throw to first was dug out of the dirt nicely by Buster Posey.

It was Crawford’s second this year, while Bochy said it reminded him a little of the one Panik started in Game 7 of the World Series. It also came on Lincecum’s final pitch of the night and fired Lincecum up before he left the mound.

"Just an all-around great play," Bochy said. "Defense wins games for you, it does, and we made some great plays."

Crawford also dropped a perfect drag bunt for a two-out RBI single in the second inning that gave the Giants their first run. Crawford said he always has the option of bunting in the back of his mind against left-handers, but he noticed Dodgers starter Brett Anderson falling way toward the third-base side on his follow-through as well.

"I put down a couple good ones in batting practice today," Crawford added, "so I thought I’d try it out."

* Bochy said before the game Brandon Belt will likely be back in the lineup Wednesday against Kershaw, with Buster Posey behind the plate. But if Tuesday was an audition of sorts for Andrew Susac as the backup catcher, Susac acquitted himself well. Susac caught Lincecum deftly -- the job of the backup in recent seasons -- and reached base three times with two singles and a walk. The lone pitch that bounced by him was Santiago Casilla’s wild pitch in the ninth, which did score a run.

Outside of the ninth inning, the 6-2 win was one of the better all-around games the Giants have played through their first 15.

"We had contributions throughout the order and played well defensively, made pitches when we had to," Bochy said. "We had to come out and play good ball, and we did it."

* Now comes the marquee matchup, with last year’s N.L. MVP Clayton Kershaw and the reigning World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner facing off Wednesday night in the first such pitching matchup in MLB history, according to STATS LLC.

"It’s going to get a lot of attention, as it should," Bochy said. "I think if you’re a baseball fan this is the kind of matchup you hope to see."

First pitch at 7:15 p.m.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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