EXTRA BAGGS: Lincecum offers a sugar high, etc.

908795.jpg

EXTRA BAGGS: Lincecum offers a sugar high, etc.

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO When you absorb the worst postseason shutoutloss in franchise history, the feel-good moments usually end with thethundering flyover during the National Anthem.

Tim Lincecum provided one more turbo boost, such as it was.

Lincecum, the cause of so much consternation this season,made his third career relief appearance his second in a playoff game andtemporarily stoked a sellout crowd when he took the mound in the sixth inningSunday night.

Lincecum retired six of seven batters over two scorelessinnings, earning a standing ovation from fans who otherwise used their rallyrags to dab at their eyes in a 9-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy needed a couple clean innings tokeep a four-run game from splitting open. But maybe he also hoped Lincecumcould pep up the paying customers, and by extension, cause a stirring in some of hishitters.

Its hard to get the crowd into it when you dont getrunners on base, Bochy said.

The crowd down the left field line responded as soon asLincecum peeled off a gray sweatshirt and made his way to the bullpen mound tojoin lefty Jose Mijares in the bottom of the fifth. Lincecum only made two orthree warmup tosses as Brandon Belt broke up Bronson Arroyos perfect game witha single. Gregor Blanco grounded out to end the inning, and there was aconfused moment as Lincecum, already back in the dugout, was told to take themound.

RATTO: It's do or be done for Giants

The Giants called back Mijares, who had gotten as far as theinfield dirt.

We told both of them, Blanco, if he gets up, were going todouble switch, Bochy said. I think they were confused because the pitcherdidnt come up, but he said he was ready. He doesnt throw much anyway, Timmy,and he went out there and did a great job.

Lincecum threw 17 of his 25 pitches for strikes and left to a standing ovation, although it was a sugar high. The Giants didn't get a runner into scoring position until the eighth inning -- and that came, poetically, on defensive indifference.

The game exploded in the eighth, but Bochy didn't want to send Lincecum out there for a third inning. He said he took out his two-time Cy Young Award winner turned mop-up man to savehis pitch count, both to keep him a viable option to appear in relief again andalso to preserve him for a potential start.

All those options are open and I was glad to see him throwlike that, Bochy said. He was really good, I thought good with his commandand he kept the ball down and had all his pitches working.

Now we have the option, if he wants, or we want to use himin the pen in the first or second game in Cincinnati. Or start him if we havethat option.

Picking a Game 4 starter? Now thats a dilemma the Giantswould be thrilled to have.

--
Some folks are bound to speculate that the Giants are gettingtheir tails kicked because they clinched too early. I dont buy that.

But I do think the Giants soft schedule in September isworking to their disadvantage, in a sense. They didnt have to face muchfirst-division pitching while feasting on the Rockies, Padres and the like.They didnt see many lineups that had the kind of talent and continuity thatthe Reds throw at you on a given night. And although the Giants have shown anability to rally, they havent had to do it against the team with the lowestbullpen ERA in the National League.

Bottom line time: the Giants starters arent pitching wellenough -- even in their shelteredcove. There is no more certain way to get bounced from a short series

--
Wheels up in six hours for me, with a stop in Chicago andthen a 50-mile drive from Dayton to Cincinnati.

If this is the last game Ill cover at AT&T Park thisseason, its been entirely memorable. And for one night, perfect.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.