Giants can't coax Lincecum through heat

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Giants can't coax Lincecum through heat

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WASHINGTON Bruce Bochy sounded like he was trying to coaxan old farm truck up a steep hill.

We were hoping he could get through the fourth inning,said the Giants manager, and he couldnt make it.

Tim Lincecum had nothing left in his tank. His gears were grinding. And he couldntescape the fourth inning. In his 172nd major league start, he gaveup eight runs for the first time. In the draining heat, his hair clingy withperspiration, Lincecums momentum from two good outings leaked out like power steering fluid.

The heat, said Lincecum, just got the better of me today.

Meteorology aside, here is the real thunderclap fact thatfollowed Tuesday nights 9-3 loss to the Washington Nationals:

The Giants face more than one steep hill with their formerace. They are exactly midway through a season. On this coast-to-coast drive,theyre in Topeka.

Somehow, they must continue to coax Lincecum along.

You always think hes turned a corner every time he goesout there, said Bochy, confirming that Lincecum would pitch Sunday atPittsburgh, the final game before the All-Star break. Hes got another starthere before the break. We need him to get back on track and pitch well.

Miraculously, the Giants made it to their 81stgame as a first place team, even though they are 4-13 in Lincecums starts.They are still a 45-win club, on pace for a 90-win season. They could be somuch further along. They could be spinning in mud, too.

Bochy waved off any big-picture talk of the Giants fortunesamid Lincecums failures.

Weve talked about that, Bochy said. I dont want todwell on that. Thats not what he needs to think.

You want to go with a mantra of, Its not how you start,its how you finish. The stuff is fine and hes healthy. We need him to pitchthe way we know he can.

Lincecum did not finish well amid the heat at NationalsPark, which was constant if not totally oppressive. Although temperatures werein the 90s with the requisite blanket-over-the-head humidity, an overcast skykept it from really roasting.

Lincecum threw 21 pitches in the first inning. Twenty-one.

Thats all it took to sap him.

Well, he worked hard and logged a lot of pitches, and Ithink it caught up to him in the heat, Bochy said. It showed. He couldnthold them. He couldnt get the ball where he wanted.

Lincecum threw 24 pitches in the Nationals two-run secondinning, including a curveball to pitcher Jordan Zimmermann that hovered like aglobby mass.

He threw 26 pitches as the Nationals hit rockets in athree-run third inning.

He had nothing left in the fourth.

It wasnt any one inning, Lincecum said. Just coming hereand dealing with that heat, its not anything different from what Ive dealtwith. It just got the better of me today. They made me work. They made me payfor it.

At the same time, Im not trying to make that my excuse ormy out.

Has he lost the momentum he searched for nearly two monthsto generate?

No, Lincecum said. Its easy to look at what happenedtoday and say I took a step back. But the next outing has nothing to do withtoday. Its about getting better the next four days.

Stuff was just a little flatter today. Just not as crispwith the exception of a couple batters in the first inning. That was thedifference.

Lincecum did a better job performing in the heat last season,when he was carrying an extra 20 or 25 pounds. He lost that weight over thewinter, saying he didnt like the way he felt.

Bochy said he didnt think Lincecums skinnier frame hadmuch of an impact. But his ability to maintain his stuff has been a largerissue this season. Heat or no heat. Long innings or not.

Well yeah, thats the case with most pitchers, Bochy said.Youre in the third or fourth inning with 70 pitches, its probably going tocatch up to you, especially in the heat. You could see him laboring in thesecond inning.

In the fourth, he couldnt quite make it.

Once again, Lincecum is left to talk about putting a badstart behind him. And find his old gear.

Ill try to feed off any wins we get, whether its mepitching or not, Lincecum said. Were all here for the same reason, and winningis contagious.

At least he can find some vapors there. Astounding though it might be, hes still pitchingfor a first-place club.

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

SAN FRANCISCO — With the winning run on second and a bat in his hands, Cory Gearrin allowed himself to dream. He was a second baseman at Mercer University years ago and he entered the night with a 1.000 batting average in the big leagues. Why couldn’t this be his night on the mound and at the plate?

Gearrin stopped on the way to the plate and told Buster Posey that he was going to walk it off. He dug in against right-hander Chad Qualls and waited for the first sinker. He swung over the top of it, but he felt it was a quality hack. And then he missed the next sinker, and then the next. 

“I felt good going into that at-bat,” Gearrin said. “It was fun getting that opportunity. I’ve never faced a sinker like that. I felt like I missed it … by a lot.”

Gearrin can take solace in two facts. First, using his own sinker, he pitched three shutout innings, more than earning his keep, and he was a well-deserved winning pitcher in a 4-3 win over the Rockies that became official one minute after midnight.

Second, perhaps he gave the next hitter, Denard Span, a better view of an opposing pitcher’s repertoire. 

“Yeah ... he gave me a lot of information during that at-bat,” Span said as he laughed. 

Okay, so maybe Gearrin’s contributions were limited to the mound, but oh what a job he did against one of the best lineups in the National League. Span didn’t glean anything from Gearrin’s brief battle, but he didn’t need to. He spat on a changeup and then ripped a sinker into right, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to race home for a 14th-inning victory. 

Span, who is open about his distrust of birds, had spent nearly two hours standing under a circling flock of seagulls. Between pitches, he often dropped his hands onto his knees, looking more eager than anyone for the night to end. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me,” he said. “I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.”

The single gave the Giants back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. It validated so much good work, from the five relievers who got the ball to Gearrin, to the Brandons who turned a snazzy double play in the 11th, to Buster Posey, who twice threw out runners at second in extra innings. Gearrin shouted out the defense in his post game media session. 

“It’s not news to us that we’ve got gold glovers all over the field,” he said. 

The Giants trailed by a pair after Matt Cain hung a curveball to Mark Reynolds, but they chipped away. The Rockies were the jumpier team in extra innings, but every rally was cut down by stellar defense and quality pitches. Gearrin threw 34 of them. 

The veteran right-hander had never before recorded more than six outs in a big league game. He got nine outs Tuesday, giving Bochy one extension after another as he battled to make it through a game shorthanded. With Conor Gillaspie headed to the DL, the Giants had just three position players on the bench. That meant Ty Blach was used as a pinch-runner. Jeff Samardzija pinch-hit in the 11th. Bochy thought of using Matt Moore in the 14th when the pitcher’s spot came up. Hunter Strickland was warming up to pitch the 15th, but …

“I could have hit Moore — I probably should have,” Bochy said, smiling. “But Cory is a pretty good athlete and had a pretty good average going into that at-bat. The numbers swayed me.”

Gearrin got his first career at-bat last season and singled. He has not even taken batting practice since that day, but he was fired up when given the opportunity. He was still so fired up after the Giants chased Span into the outfield that he didn’t mind the fact that his shiny 1.000 batting average has been cut in half. 

“I got to use that line for a year,” he said. “But I’ll gladly sacrifice the 1.000 average for a walk-off win.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This, at long last, is a winning streak. A modest one, but still. 

Denard Span hit a walk-off single to right in the bottom of the 14th inning, giving the Giants a 4-3 win that became official one minute after midnight. The Giants have back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. 

The Giants led early, fell behind on a three-run dinger, and then chipped away until the game went to extras. Buster Posey twice gunned runners down at second to help keep the score tied and the bullpen held tough, with Cory Gearrin throwing three scoreless innings. 

Gearrin had a chance to win it for himself in the 14th, but he struck out with Gorkys Hernandez on second. Span promptly singled. If you’re just waking up for work, here are five things to know from a night when the seagulls outnumbered the humans … 

--- Matt Cain needs an assist on the first run of the night. With Gorkys Hernandez on first, he got a sacrifice bunt down on a two-strike curveball that was headed for the dirt. Hernandez went to second and promptly scored on Denard Span’s single to right. The curveball wasn’t so kind in the sixth. With a runner on, the Giants intentionally walked lifelong nemesis Nolan Arenado to get to Mark Reynolds. Cain hung a curve and Reynolds crushed it to left for a three-run homer. 

--- The Giants got a run back in the sixth when Brandon Crawford’s deep fly allowed Buster Posey to trot in from third. Crawford leads the majors with nine sacrifice flies. He also turned a ridiculous double play that can’t adequately be described, except to say that he should expand his trophy case. 

--- Kelby Tomlinson came off the bench to tie it in the bottom of the eighth. His single to right brought Brandon Belt in from third. Tomlinson is 9 for 27 as a pinch-hitter this season. That’ll keep you on the chartered jets. 

--- Sam Dyson, with a fastball that reached 97 and an infield defense that was just as firm, pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings in extras. What a find. 

--- With the go-ahead run on first and no outs in the 13th, Nolan Arenado put down a sacrifice bunt. That's one of the five best moments of the Giants' season.