DENVER Tim Lincecum was more than 30 pitches deep into thefirst inning, Shane Loux began marking up a bullpen mound and Giants managerBruce Bochy tried to fight back a very bad feeling.
We had to get somebody up, Bochy said. It was hot outthere. It was getting to a point where wed have to go get him. We had to takecare of him.
The last time Lincecum pitched here at Coors Field, helasted just 2 13 innings the shortest start of his career. This one wasthreatening to be even shorter.
But then Lincecum got ahead of Wilin Rosario with the basesloaded. He kept throwing fastballs. Rosario fouled off a pair with two strikes.Lincecum came back with another, and Rosario hit a harmless fly out to rightfield.
Lincecum drew the battle line. He did not let the Rockiescross it again, gutting through six innings as the Giants completed their firstroad sweep of the season with an 8-3 victory at Coors Field on Sunday.
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More than any velocity or any mechanical issues, its thatcompetitive streak that Lincecum was missing in the first half when the Giantswere 4-14 in his starts. Its been the difference as the Giants have gone 4-1in his outings since the All-Star break.
Im just trying to stay competitive, Lincecum said.Thats the biggest thing. When its on the line and I dont have crap, itsthe competitive side of me that will get me through.
It always has. Lincecum recognized early that his changeupwas acting as a cutter in the dry air, so he went to his curveball and abackdoor slider to set up his fastball. He wasnt dominant, walking five andstriking out just three just the sixth start in his career when he had morefree passes than tickets punched.
But he found a way to adjust, as Ryan Vogelsong and MadisonBumgarner had done the previous two games.
I dont think anything is different, Lincecum said. Imnot throwing any harder, obviously, or throwing a new pitch. Im just having moreconviction with what I throw.
I remember youd refer to me as a stopper. Im just tryingto get back that edge. Today wasnt a stopper situation, but youve got toapproach it like that."
Lincecum had one win and a 9.00 ERA in his first 10 road starts. He's 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last two road outings, both in hitter's yards (Philadelphia and Colorado).
He helped pitch the Giants to their first road sweep of the season; it was their 13th opportunity to complete a three-game sweep in 2012, but just the fourth time they achieved it.
I just wanted to dig deep," Lincecum said. "I knew this was a big game forus. We wanted this sweep. Were a half-game up and we wanted to just keepputting the foot to the pedal.
The Giants certainly did that while outscoring the pitching-poor Rockies 35-12 in the three-game series. Theyalso went 20 for 52 (.385) with runners in scoring position over the threegames.
But it was a tightgame for most of Lincecums six innings, and he benefited from a bit of luck,too. Two innings ended with lineouts. Another ended on a double play when leftfielder Melky Cabrera caught a fly ball and threw a strike to the plate tothrow out Rosario trying to score.
Lincecum had so muchbad luck to go along with bad body language in the first half. Now he seems tohave his fighting spirit back, and his teammates seem inspired to fight alittle harder for him, too. Lincecum gave Hector Sanchez a hearty pat on theback after the catcher blocked the plate as he received Cabreras throw.
I wasdefinitely pumped up, Lincecum said. I knew I gave him a pretty good beatingback there and he kept trucking along. Youve got to give him a hand there.
Said Sanchez: I tried to block the plate. Thats what everycatcher tries to do. Its a perfect throw. Its a big guy. But thats my job.
Its in Lincecums job description to be an ace. Perhaps itsnot too late.