Giants coast behind Lincecum
Molina singles, triples, homers; Renteria notches four hits
SAN FRANCISCO -- During Thursday's scheduled off-day, their last of four in April, the Giants can heave a contented sigh.Their 9-4 victory Wednesday night over the Dodgers enabled them to finish the season's opening month 10-10 -- a mediocre record at face value, but nevertheless satisfying given their 2-7 start. "It's important to be resilient in this game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "... To be at .500 now is good for the ballclub and shows a lot of character." The Giants had enough gumption to recover from the three-game sweep the Dodgers handed them April 13-16 by winning two of three games in this series. Overall, San Francisco has won seven of its last nine games. A series-ending triumph for the Giants might have been nothing less than the partisan paid crowd of 37,717 expected, given Tim Lincecum's presence. Lincecum indeed delivered, blanking Los Angeles on three hits for seven innings before faltering in the eighth and being charged with three runs. But the National League's reigning Cy Young Award winner tried to downplay the expectations. "I'm trying to completely erase that from my mind," said Lincecum (2-1). "I'm not worried about that at all. I'm not trying to be the Cy Young winner [who's] trying to shut down L.A. I'm trying to be myself, not trying to do too much." Asked if Giants players share such expectations of Lincecum, closer Brian Wilson politely said, "That's just a little bit too much." But, Wilson added, "knowing that he's probably going to win? Yeah. The confidence that Tim Lincecum is taking the mound and we have a great chance to win this game? Yeah, we all think that. It allows the offense to play a little easier and they're more relaxed." Lincecum indeed delivered, maintaining his recent surge. In his last three starts, the right-hander has allowed four runs and 16 hits in 23 innings (ERA: 1.57) while walking four and striking out 33. And, as Wilson mentioned, the offense freely produced by amassing a season-high 15 hits. Bengie Molina lacked only a double to hit for the cycle, going 3-for-5 and driving in four runs. He followed one-out, first-inning singles by Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval with his first triple since May 23, 2007, a drive that caromed off the left-center-field wall and eluded Los Angeles' Juan Pierre. Despite his absence of speed, Molina was thinking triple.
"I saw the ball hit the wall and get away from [Pierre] and I said, 'This is my only chance of the year. Go for it.'"Molina added a leadoff homer in the seventh, prompting dreams of the cycle.
"But I knew I was going to have only one more at-bat," he said. He made the most of that plate appearance, rapping a ninth-inning RBI single.Renteria went 4-for-5 with a pair of two-out, run-scoring hits -- a single in the second inning and a double in the sixth. The 33-year-old shortstop has reached base safely in his last 11 games to hike his batting average from .138 to .275. "He has really picked it up. That's what you want your veterans to do," Bochy said. "Especially when you're sputtering a little bit, you hope that somebody ignites them and keeps the line moving." Or, in the case of the Giants' starting pitchers, hold the line. Lincecum's effort improved the Giants to 8-3 when they receive a quality start (an outing of at least six innings in which a pitcher yields three or fewer earned runs). The outset of Lincecum's effort was unlike most others. He needed only five pitches to complete a perfect first inning, though each out was a hard-hit ball that required deft fielding plays.
"I felt like I had good stuff and guys just put good contact on balls," Lincecum said. "Whether they get spread out over nine innings or three outs in a row, that's going to happen."Then Lincecum opened the second inning by striking out Andre Ethier, who entered the game hitting .353 this season against San Francisco. From the Giants' perspective, equilibrium was restored. Lincecum's growing momentum energized the fans, which he noticed.
"They're really feeling the game," he said. "You hear the roar of the crowd every other inning or so. You can tell they want it and we want it."The Giants have five more months to prove how badly they want it.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.