SAN FRANCISCO – Could there be a more comforting formula for victory for the Giants? Tim Lincecum mowed through the San Diego Padres for 6 2/3 shutout innings, the bullpen shut things down from there and the Giants mustered just enough offense to ring up a 2-0 victory Saturday night over the San Diego Padres.
Based on Lincecum’s first three starts, manager Bruce Bochy was hoping the right-hander could just deliver a quality start and give San Francisco a chance to win. Lincecum did much more than that, and when he pitches as he did Saturday, Bochy has to feel much, much better about his rotation, which has struggled to this point.
The Giants operated with little margin for error because they scraped together just three hits. Consider this a successful weekend, as San Francisco has already won this series on the heels of being swept at Milwaukee.
The only potential dark cloud from this game: Pablo Sandoval hit a foul ball off his right foot in the seventh and did not come out to play defense in the eighth. There was no immediate update on his condition.
Starting pitching report
If Lincecum can bottle whatever he did Saturday and draw on it consistently, he’s in for a good season. He blanked the Padres over 6 2/3 innings, surrendering four hits, striking out eight and walking two.
Lincecum was in control, getting ahead in the count for most of the night, showing an excellent changeup and dropping in the occasional curve to keep the Padres guessing. He set the Padres down in order in four of the first five innings.
Most importantly, disaster never came when he did put men on base.
San Diego loaded the bases in the third on a single to center, a walk and an infield dribbler. But Lincecum dodged trouble by retiring No. 3 hitter Chase Headley on a weakly hit grounder to second. He left with two on and two outs in the seventh, after getting ahead 0-2 to John Baker before walking him. By far Lincecum’s best start so far, and – believe it or not – it came with Buster Posey catching him for the first time in 2013.
It was the second straight stellar night for the relief corps. Jose Mijares entered for Lincecum in the seventh and retired pinch hitter Mark Kotsay on a fly ball to strand two runners. Santiago Casilla induced an inning-ending double play after walking his first batter in the eighth, and Sergio Romo shut things down for his eighth save. That was no small thing, as Romo was coming off a five-day layoff.
At the plate
The Giants couldn’t capitalize on a break they got before the game even started. Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard was scratched with flu-like symptoms and replaced by Andrew Cashner, who was on a strict pitch limit. But Cashner pitched effectively for four innings and the Giants mustered just three hits all night.
Sandoval provided all the offense they needed in the fourth, when he fouled off five pitches from Cashner and turned on a 97 mph fastball for a two-run homer to right field. In the field
Neither team committed an error. The defensive highlight for the Giants was a fine running catch in the alley by right fielder Hunter Pence, who robbed Yonder Alonso of extra bases in the fourth.
An announced turnout of 41,995 accounted for consecutive sellout No. 173. Lincecum received a hearty standing ovation upon exiting in the seventh.
What will start No. 4 bring for Barry Zito? He threw 14 shutout innings combined in his first two outings, then got hammered for nine runs his last time out against Milwaukee. Historically, he hasn’t been his best against San Diego (4-9, 4.80 ERA in 21 appearances). Lefty Eric Stults goes for the Padres.