Tim Lincecum pitched six solid innings, Angel Pagan and Michael Morse hit home runs, Sergio Romo exorcised a personal demon and the Giants began their 10-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday at Turner Field.
Pagan hit his eighth career leadoff home run as the Giants improved to 12-1 when scoring first. Morse snapped a tie in the sixth with an opposite-field shot that cleared Jason Heyward’s leaping attempt.
The Giants improved to 5-1 in Lincecum’s six starts. But most of those were comebacks or slugfests. This time, Lincecum operated with very little margin for error, and he combined with three relievers to make two runs stand up.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum pitched in plenty of traffic, giving up six hits and three walks in his six innings. But unlike so many starts over the previous two seasons, he found a way to Frogger himself across the road.
He held the Braves to 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and departed with a 2-1 lead.
Lincecum’s three walks were a season high after he issued just six over his first five starts. But he only regretted one of them, when he issued a free pass to No.8 hitter Gerald Laird that had nothing to do with tactics and everything to do with simply missing his spots. Mike Minor struck out while trying to sacrifice bunt but Jason Heyward singled and emerging Giant killer Freddie Freeman hit a line single to right field. Laird, running on contact with two outs, rumbled home with the Braves’ only run against Lincecum.
Lincecum might have gotten lucky to escape the fifth having given up just one run. Justin Upton hit a lineout that almost took Michael Morse’s glove off in left field to end the inning.
Lincecum threw 93 pitches, and with the bullpen rested following a travel day, that was as far as Bruce Bochy was willing to take him.
Jeremy Affeldt struck out two and left a runner for Santiago Casilla, who retired a hot-hitting Justin Upton to end the seventh. Casilla navigated a scoreless eighth, leaving the final three outs for Romo.
Turner Field has not been kind to Romo. He entered 0-2 with a 16.88 ERA in five appearances, not counting that homer he gave up to Eric Hinske that would’ve put him in line to lose Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS here.
So Romo might have gotten a bit more than the usual charge out of his eighth save in eight opportunities. A two-out, two-strike single by B.J. Upton extended the game for Freeman, who was responsible for one of Romo’s five blown saves last year. Romo got ahead but pitched carefully after Upton stole second base and ended up missing inside with a 3-2 pitch.
That brought Justin Upton to the plate and a battle ensued. After several fouled sliders away, including one hanger, Romo went into the lion’s mouth and painted an inside fastball that froze Upton to end the game.
At the plate
The Braves received a solid outing from Minor, who was making his first start of the season after beginning the year on the DL with shoulder soreness. He scattered five other hits besides the solo shots and didn’t walk a batter while striking out four.
Pablo Sandoval had better at-bats and made hard contact twice to left field. He had one hit to show for it, and that’s only because Justin Upton lost the ball in the lights and it struck his chest before bouncing away for a single in the eighth.
The Giants had a chance to break the game open after drawing two walks to start the seventh, but following a sacrifice bunt, Pagan and Hunter Pence struck out against Anthony Varvaro.
Pence was making his 200th consecutive start, which is the longest streak in the NL and second longest in the majors, behind Prince Fielder. Pence can’t DH whenever he wants, tough.
Brandon Belt received a day off so Buster Posey could play first base, allowing him to start all three games in the series. Belt has had trouble catching up to fastball all week, so you can guess how his pinch at-bat went against Craig Kimbrel.
Andrelton Simmons wins Gold Gloves. Brandon Crawford makes plays that win games. Crawford made several difficult plays look easy, and his diving stop took a huge hit away from Evan Gattis to start the ninth.
Also … Jordan Walden balks on every pitch. Jordan Walden balks on every pitch. Jordan Walden balks on every pitch.
The Giants and Braves continue their three-game series at Turner Field on Saturday. It’ll be Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 5.40) against right-hander Julio Teheran (2-1, 1.47). First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. PDT.