LOS ANGELES -- One effective outing couldn't erase all of Tim Lincecum's poor performances this year. But his exploits Tuesday awarded him a pitcher's mound-sized heap of redemption.Lincecum didn't just earn the decision in the Giants' 4-1 victory over Los Angeles. After all, he beat the Dodgers. That counts extra in Giants country, particularly under the circumstances. The Giants, who already have assured themselves of winning the three-game series, widened their National League West lead over Los Angeles to 1 1/2 games, their biggest bulge since Aug. 8. Lincecum (7-13) retired the first 10 batters he faced and ultimately lasted 5 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits and Los Angeles' lone run. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner fell far short of his dazzling best. But being dazzling is no longer a given for Lincecum, who must rely on guile as much as any other quality or delivery.
"The games that got away from him, he's forgotten how to pitch. And he knows how," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.The Giants demonstrated that they know how to play by sustaining another balanced effort. It was personified by Angel Pagan, who singled twice and doubled off Dodgers starter Joe Blanton (8-12) in his first three at-bats, scored a run and drove in another. Pagan also sparkled defensively by throwing out A.J. Ellis at home plate in the sixth inning, which prevented a Dodgers rally from mushrooming. But the importance of Lincecum's triumph couldn't be underestimated. The Giants are 9-17 in his starts. Should he begin paving the way to victories more consistently, the road to the division title would become much smoother for the Giants. Said Bochy, "We're getting to the back end of August. It's going to important for Timmy and for us to pitch better." "In the bigger scheme of things, I'm just trying to erase whatever I did in the first half and try to have a better second half," said Lincecum, who's 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA since the All-Star break. "You can't change anything that happened. You just worry about making better pitches now." Lincecum's fastball touched 93 mph on the Dodger Stadium velocity readings, a tad higher than usual. He offered a simple explanation: "I just think I was riding more adrenaline because it was the Dodgers," he said. Buster Posey, who started at first base and drilled a two-run, first-inning single, noticed a difference in Lincecum as the afternoon turned to evening.
"I'd say even before the game he had a little extra giddyap," Posey said.San Francisco prevented the Dodgers from reaching a full gallop in the sixth inning. Los Angeles drove Lincecum from the game but missed an opportunity to accomplish much more than that. Lincecum opened the inning with his lone free pass of the game, a walk to Ellis. Juan Rivera, who entered the game as part of a double-switch in the top half of the inning, singled. So did Shane Victorino, on a ball that Pagan charged and fielded in short center field. "I thought I had a good chance [to throw out Ellis]," Pagan said. His throw skipped twice but reached home in time for catcher Hector Sanchez to tag out Ellis. Performing the cutoff man's role, Posey let the throw bypass him. Nobody advised him to do so. "I just kind of had a feeling that it might be close," he said. Lincecum was exhilarated as he watched the play unfold while backing up home plate.
"It definitely pumped me up," he said. "I screamed my head off when they made that play. It's hard not to show emotion when a big play like that is made. If that wasn't made, it could have been a tough inning for us."Adam Kennedy's single reloaded the bases and energized the sellout crowd of 56,000 as Matt Kemp strode to the plate. But all Kemp could manage on Lincecum's second-pitch slider was a sacrifice fly.
"I knew I had to bear down and it wasn't about getting a strikeout there," Lincecum said. "I knew if I got a pop fly and they get a sac fly out of it, we're still in a good situation."With left-handed-batting Andre Ethier due up, Bochy removed Lincecum for lefty reliever Jose Mijares, who struck out the Los Angeles cleanup hitter on a 93 mph fastball. Mijares started another impressive relief sequence. Santiago Casilla pitched two perfect innings, Sergio Romo opened the ninth with a strikeout before yielding Kemp's single and Javier Lopez retired Ethier to end the game for the second night in a row, this time on a double-play grounder. "I do have to give those guys credit. These are guys that can pitch," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "They are where they are for a reason. Two years ago they win the whole thing for a reason and a lot of it is the same guys who are pitching. They are a club we can handle and I think we will handle, but when you make pitches, there are times you are going to be shut down and these two games have been a couple of those."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.