The Giants simply could not keep up with the Kansas City Royals this weekend. And Tim Lincecum’s deliberate pace to the plate didn’t help Sunday afternoon.
The Royals scored four runs in the first inning and stole five bases in Tim Lincecum’s 3 1/3 innings – the most against a Giants starter in 26 years – as the Giants lost 7-4 and were swept in the three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
They also finished 4-6 on a long road trip that started with wins in three of four games at New York.
The Giants’ deficit in the NL West reached a season-high 4 ½ games, although they remain right in the middle of the wild card picture.
The Giants are also 0-6 in American League parks this season, and 2-14 over the past two seasons. They had to start four rookies in the lineup after Michael Morse was a late scratch because of an ingrown toenail.
The Royals stole seven bases overall – three by Nori Aoki and three by Jarrod Dyson – the most by a Giants opponent since the Mets did it (in a Jonathan Sanchez start) in 2009.
Starting pitching report
The Giants have had team-wide struggles at home, but Lincecum simply has not been a competitive pitcher away from AT&T Park. He has a 5.98 ERA on the road and the team has dropped six of his last seven starts in grays.
There’s probably little correlation, but Lincecum is winless in four starts since recording his first career save July 22 at Philadelphia, and hasn’t lasted five innings in three of those four starts. Losing his batterymate, Hector Sanchez, probably doesn’t help either.
Lincecum took the Giants out of the game in the first inning, when the Royals blitzed him for four runs. Billy Butler tagged a slider for an RBI double, a wild pitch scored another run, then Alex Gordon hit another do-nothing slider for a two-run home run.
This is nothing new, but Lincecum continued to have trouble making pitches from the stretch. So it was particularly damaging that the Royals got the leadoff batter aboard in all four of his innings. Kansas City’s team speed was an issue, too. They ran wild against Lincecum and stole five bases, none of which catcher Andrew Susac could do anything to stop.
Lincecum became the first Giants pitcher in 19 years, and the first starter since Atlee Hammaker in 1998, to allow as many as five steals in a game.
The Royals knocked Lincecum out with a feather in the fourth. Alcides Escobar hit an infield single to the left side, then a sacrifice and a stolen base preceded Aoki’s RBI single up the middle. Aoki then proceeded to steal his third base of the game, this time against reliever Juan Gutierrez, before scoring on Salvador Perez’s two-run homer.
Gutierrez served up Perez’s homer to cash in Lincecum’s run. The game became janitorial work from there, with Yusmeiro Petit on bucket duty.
At the plate
Susac was the fourth of four consecutive rookies in Sunday’s lineup, batting after Adam Duvall, Matt Duffy and Joe Panik. And Susac took advantage of two spots with runners in scoring position, hitting an RBI single in the second inning and a two-run double that scored Duvall and Panik in the seventh.
Hunter Pence managed to get the tying run to the plate in the seventh after using a one-armed swing to knock an RBI single to center. But Royals right-hander Jason Frasor, perhaps knowing Buster Posey would be in pull mode after a series full of outs died in deep center, stayed away with a 3-1 pitch and let the former MVP roll over to shortstop to end the threat.
Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan reached in the ninth against closer Greg Holland to get the tying run to the plate one more time, but Pence struck out. Posey drew a four-pitch walk and Pablo Sandoval lined out to end it.
The Giants defense rescued Lincecum in the second inning after the Royals used a single, a walk and a double steal to get two runners in scoring position with no outs. Duffy, at shortstop, kept Perez’s jam-shot line drive from spinning out of his glove. Then third baseman Pablo Sandoval handled a hot shot from Billy Butler as Lincecum escaped that jam. He did not escape them all, though.
The Giants return home and begin a two-game series with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Ryan Vogelsong (7-8, 3.77 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Chris Sale (10-2, 2.14). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.