BOX SCORESAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum struggled out of the gate, Tim Hudson cruised through the Giants lineup for seven innings, and the Braves beat the Giants 7-1 on Sunday to split the four-game series after losing the first two contests.Starting pitching report With the rare 5:00 start time, Tim Lincecum had the benefit of the baseball leaving his hand in sunlight and reaching home plate in the shadows to start the ballgame. It didnt appear to help, however, as the Giants right-hander walked Braves leadoff man Michael Bourn and continued to unravel en route to allowing two first inning runs. After Lincecum induced a fly out from Reed Johnson, Bourn stole second and advanced to third on a single by Jason Heyward, who also stole second. A walk to Freddie Freeman loaded the bases for Martin Prado, who drove in Bourn with a fielders choice. Brian McCann followed with a bloop single into the Bermudas Triangle behind second base in right-centerfield for a 2-0 Braves lead. Lincecum has allowed 25 first-inning runs this season, the most in the big leagues.Lincecum kept the Braves off the board in the second, but gave up a single to the opposing pitcher Tim Hudson and allowed Bourn to steal his second base in as many innings.The Lincecum of yesteryear returned briefly in the third, as Heyward struck out chasing a high, tailing fastball and Freeman and Prado both grounded out for the first Atlanta 1-2-3 inning. But the nostalgia didnt last long, as Lincecum hung a one-out, 1-1 change-up to Juan Francisco in the fourth inning that ended up halfway up the centerfield Bleachers above the VISA sign. Since Barry Bonds retired, not many players have hit one to that part of the ballpark.Lincecum cruised through the fifth inning with three consecutive groundouts for his second 1-2-3 inning, but was lifted for pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot in the bottom half of the frame having thrown 90 pitches on the evening.Lincecums line: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, one tape measure home run. Fifty-three of his 90 pitches were strikes.The two-time Cy Young winner has now thrown just nine quality starts in his 27 outings this season. He had 26 quality starts in each of those award-winning seasons (2008 and 2009).Bullpen report Jose Mijares relieved Lincecum to open the sixth inning and didnt last long. He walked Prado, gave up a single to McCann and struck out Francisco swinging before giving way to George Kontos. Kontos allowed both of his inherited runners to score on a triple by Paul Janish that was aided by some sloppy defense by Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan. He made up for the fat pitch to Janish by spoiling a suicide squeeze attempt, though. As Janish broke for home, Tim Hudson sent a bunt right back to Kontos, who fed catcher Hector Sanchez with an underhanded throw to get the out at home and keep the Atlanta lead at 5-0. Kontos finished the sixth inning and stayed in for a 1-2-3 seventh before giving way to Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth.Affeldt, who had allowed six runs on 10 hits and six walks over his last nine appearances, bounced back with a scoreless inning, but it wasnt without some drama. After Prado grounded out to shotstop for the first out, McCann worked around Bruce Bochys shift with a perfectly placed bunt down the third-base line. Affeldt followed with a walk to Francisco, then got Janish to fly out to center, which allowed McCann to move up to third. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called upon Chipper Jones to pinch-hit and he doffed his batting helmet to the crowd giving him a standing ovation for what could be his final appearance at AT&T Park, barring a playoff rematch. Jones hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop that ate up Brandon Crawford, but he recovered in time to get Jones at first and avoid a run-scoring error.Clay Hensley got the call in the ninth and, after two quick outs, served up back-to-back home runs to Heyward and Freeman for some Atlanta insurance. Pence bailed Hensley out of a longer inning with a sliding catch to send the game to the bottom of the ninth. At the plate Tim Lincecum threw 32 pitches in the top of the first inning. Tim Hudson needed just seven to set down the Giants 1-2-3 hitters in the bottom of the opening frame.The Giants didnt put up much more of a fight as the game moved along, either. Hudson worked around singles in the second, third and fourth innings, but still threw just 43 pitches through his first four innings of work. Hudson struck out three as he set down the Giants in order and the fifth and sixth innings before running into his first bit of trouble following the seventh-inning stretch.Buster Posey and Hunter Pence led off the seventh with back-to-back singles. Hector Sanchez almost hit the Giants 62nd splash hit, but his drive over the right-field arcade hooked foul. He eventually flew out to center before Gregor Blanco walked to load the bases for Brandon Crawford, who sent a ball to shallow center that allowed Posey to tag up and score the Giants first and only run. Hudson responded to the destruction of his shutout bid by getting pinch-hitter Brandon Belt to ground out to shortstop to end the threat.Dating back to August 29, 2006, Tim Hudson owns a six-game winning streak against the Giants, spanning nine starts. The Giants didnt fare much better against the Braves bullpen, as Jonny Venters worked around a one-out walk by getting Sandoval to ground into an easy 4-6-3 double play to end the eighth inning. Sandoval finished 0-for-4 on his bobblehead night. Pence laced a one-out single off Cristhian Martinez in the ninth inning for the Giants sixth hit of the game. But Sanchez popped out behind third base and, after a Blanco walk, Crawford flew out to Heyward in right to end the homestand.In field In the fourth inning, Angel Pagan appeared to lose a shallow fly ball in the sun off the bat of Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, who was credited with his second single of the game.Reed Johnson hit a high chopper to open up the fifth inning. Pablo Sandoval patiently waited for gravity to bring the ball back to his glove, then rushed the throw and sent it very low across the diamond. Brandon Belt has bailed Sandoval out of a few low throws recently with some slick glove work, but this time it was Buster Posey at first who took care of the one-hop throw for the out.On the bases The Braves stole three bases in the first two innings against the Tim Lincecum-Hector Sanchez battery. The Giants didnt attempt a single theft.Attendance The Giants announced a crowd of 41,735 for their 149th consecutive sellout. A number of Pablo Sandoval bobbleheads were already for sale on eBay before the games final out was recorded.Up next The Giants will enjoy a scheduled day off Monday before opening up a three-game series against the Astros in Houston. Matt Cain (13-5, 2.83 ERA) will start the opener for the Giants against Northern California native Bud Norris (5-11, 5.19 ERA).
SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants.
They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games.
But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night …
—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single.
—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning.
—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year.
—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.
—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job.
SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract.
When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency.
“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”
The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink.
So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season.
First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision.
Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start.
Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved.
That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence.
The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.