PHILADELPHIA At one point, Tim Lincecum absent-mindedly walked back to the dugout with two outs. A bit later, he balked in a run when he fell down in mid-delivery.
And yes, these might have been scenes from his best start of the season while pitching the Giants to a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on a surprisingly misty Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Lincecum pitched feisty but carefully while avoiding the big inning something he hadnt been able to do throughout this disappointing season of his. But after Brandon Crawford hit another bonanza, a grand slam in the sixth inning, Lincecum went into pound-the-strike-zone mode.
Hes had better linescores than the seven-inning, five-hit, two-run, six-strikeout effort that will show up in the box score. But he might have done his best job mixing stuff, smarts and mound poise while winning for just the second time since April 28.
Wouldnt you know it? After losing nine consecutive Lincecum starts, the Giants have now taken four of their last six Happy Timmy Days. Perhaps its no coincidence theyre 6-1 since the All-Star break and gaining a foothold in the NL West.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum (4-10) didnt have to worry about heat exhaustion. The cold and misty weather suited him well and he showed it by allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings.
Even he was unaccustomed to getting so many quick outs early in the game. The sellout crowd whooped it up when he began walking to the dugout after fielding pitcher Vance Worleys comebacker for the second out in the third inning.
The Phillies made some good adjustments the second time through the order, when Shane Victorino and Chase Utley began the fourth inning with singles to put runners at the corners.
Thats when Lincecum slipped while trying to make a pitch to Ryan Howard, falling down midway through his delivery for a balk that scored a run.
But Lincecum did not lose his composure. He retired Howard and Carlos Ruiz on contact outs, then showed a bit of Vogelsong while refusing to give in against Hunter Pence and Juan Pierre. He missed on close pitches while issuing walks to load the bases.
This was the Moment of Truth, and unlike so many times earlier this season, Lincecum met it. He got ahead with two nasty, called breaking pitches to Placido Polanco and then got him to roll over an inside fastball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval for the easy forceout. (Though the pitch might not have been as far in as Lincecum wanted it. So maybe Timmys luck changed a bit, too.)
After Crawford put the Giants ahead, Lincecum did exactly what a good pitcher should do: He switched to strike-pumping mode, and wasnt fazed after Howard took him deep to center field for a solo shot in the sixth.
Lincecum retired the next six hitters to end his night.
The turning point was that jam he escaped in the fourth, though. Lincecum entered having allowed a .313 average with runners in scoring position; it was just .200 last year.
Jeremy Affeldt tossed the eighth inning and hasnt allowed a run while looking crisp in four outings since the All-Star break. George Kontos handled the duties in the ninth.
At the plate
If Crawford were a holdem player, hed only take kill pots. Of his six career home runs, two are grand slams and two are three-run blasts. Hes got one of each on this road trip, and as a result, the Giants already are assured no worse of a split in this six-game jaunt to Atlanta and Philadelphia.
It didnt start out so chip-happy for the Giants against Worley (5-6), who struck out the last five batters in the order the first time through the lineup. The Giants definitely were playing with a light deck with Eli Whiteside in the lineup.
The Phillies certainly didnt show Whiteside much respect in the fifth when they pitched to the No.8 hitter with first base open and two outs. Whiteside made them pay with a short-stroked double over right fielder Hunter Pences head that tied the game.
Ryan Theriot and Melky Cabrera set up the big, five-run sixth inning with a pair of singles, and Buster Posey walked to load em up. Pablo Sandoval hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly, and after Nate Schierholtz walked, Crawford hammered an 0-1 fastball into the right field seats.
Crawford later added a run-scoring single to give him a career-high five RBIs.
Crawford continued to dazzle on defense. He made a full-extension dive and throw to retire Polanco in the seventh inning, although replays appeared to show the umpire blew the call.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel looked to be telling fishing stories more than arguing, judging by the bemused expression on umpire Mike Everitts face.
The Phillies announced 44,205 paid on a rare, blustery night in late July. There were wolf whistles for Lincecum, but only a few.
Money cant buy love, but there will be stacks and stacks of it on the mound when Matt Cain (10-3, 2.56 ERA) opposes Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels (11-4, 3.07) on Saturday. Cains six-year, 127.5 million extension is being used as a baseline in current talks between the Phillies and Hamels, their former World Series MVP.