SAN FRANCISCO While the Giants tried to digest the sudden gut-bomb of Melky Cabreras 50-game suspension, Tim Lincecum added to their acute indigestion.
Lincecum took a step back from what had been a much-improved second half. He labored through a marathon first inning, surrendered a two-run home run to Danny Espinosa in the third and was gone after throwing a whopping 96 pitches in just four innings.The Washington Nationals have owned the Giants all season, and they did not hesitate to kick them while they were down while handing them a 6-4 defeat Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park.Stephen Strasburg pitched six strong innings, managing to step around an erratic patch in the second that included two walks and a two-run single by Brandon Crawford. The Nationals, who have the best record in the N.L., took two of three and held off a late charge to beat the Giants five times out of six in the season series.The Giants finished 3-3 on their homestand and are left to forge ahead without Cabrera, the major league leader in hits and runs scored, who will serve a 50-game suspension after Major League Baseball announced that he tested positive for testosterone.NEWS: Cabrera suspended 50 games
Cabrera was listed in Wednesdays lineup before his suspension was announced barely an hour before the first pitch.Cabrera leads the major leagues in hits and walks, so theres no understating the impact his suspension will have on the Giants chances to win the N.L. West. But this remains a pitching team, so a wobbly Lincecum is a damning omen in its own right.Starting pitching reportLincecum entered 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA and had thrown quality starts in five of six outings since the break. But a 38-pitch first inning served to deep-six him against one of the leagues most talented lineups.Lincecum (6-13) simply couldnt get his teammates in the dugout after retiring two of the first three hitters. Adam LaRoche reached on an infield single, Michael Morse walked to load the bases and Jayson Werth followed with a two-out hit. Lincecum hit Espinosa with a pitch before finally escaping by striking out Kurt Suzuki.The big difference with Lincecum this season: He cant maintain his stuff after being taxed early. That proved to be the case again, as the Nationals collected eight hits against him in all. Not all were seeing-eye singles, either. LaRoche doubled and Espinosa rocked Lincecum for a two-run home run in the third.Washington leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi, who led off the game with a single, proved pesky again to start the fourth inning. Lombardozzi stole second base and moved up on a wild pitch before Lincecum stranded him.But with the Giants trailing 4-2 and Lincecums pitch count soaring to 96, Giants manager Bruce Bochy lifted the two-time Cy Young Award winner for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fourth.It was the sixth time Lincecum failed to complete five innings. He has thrown quality starts in just nine of 25 outings this season. And the Giants are now 8-17 in his starts.Lincecum would match his career high with his next loss.Bullpen reportGeorge Kontos and Santiago Casilla each gave up a run; Werth hit an RBI single in the fifth, then walked and scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh.At the plateCabreras last-minute replacement, Gregor Blanco, entered with an 0-for-19 streak and was batting just .079 (3 for 38) over his last 20 games.The club moved Pablo Sandoval from fifth to third and inserted Blanco in the No. 7 spot in the lineup.Blanco snapped his streak at 21 hitless at-bats, but Strasburg only gave up three other hits in his six innings. The two Brandons, Belt and Crawford, collected two of them in the second after Hunter Pence and Buster Posey drew walks to start the inning. But after Lincecum sacrificed runners to second and third, Angel Pagan flied out to left field.The Giants managed exactly one baserunner (and no more runs) in each of Strasburgs next four innings. He improved to 14-5 with a 2.91 ERA. The innings count now stands at 139.1, and yes, the Nationals still plan to shut him down in the 160-170 inning range.Blancos infield hit scored a run off Sean Burnett in the eighth, but Crawford received a heaping supply of offspeed pitches while striking out to strand runners at the corners.The Giants scored again in the ninth with a gift from the gods. Sandoval popped up and tossed his bat, assuming hed made the final out. But first baseman Adam LaRoche appeared to lose the ball in the sun, and Sandoval took second base. Posey stepped to the plate representing the tying run, and he took two huge rips after Tyler Clippard fell behind 2-1. But both baseballs ended up in catcher Kurt Suzukis glove.In fieldThe Giants might need foot massages, for all the standing around they had to do during Lincecums innings.AttendanceThe Giants announced 42,133 paid including Barry Bonds, in a case of wondrous timing. As for the Melkmen maybe they can reinvent themselves as the Pence-il Pushers.Up nextThe Giants have a travel day to take stock of themselves before beginning their road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles with a Friday night game at Petco Park. Matt Cain (11-5, 2.99) opposes right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (4-3. 6.41). Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong are scheduled to pitch the remainder of the weekend against Padres left-handers Eric Stults and Clayton Richard.