Giants

Lack of first-inning rhythm dooms Lincecum in loss

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Lack of first-inning rhythm dooms Lincecum in loss

SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum beat Tim Hudson in one categoryon Sunday.Lincecum had four strikeouts in five innings to Hudsons three in seven. Infact, in by far the worst season of Lincecums career, he is still striking outmore than a batter an inning with 155 punch-outs in 151 innings.But maybe its time for Lincecum to take a tip from Hudson, who doesnt havethe gaudy strikeout numbers that Lincecum has become known for since he startedblowing through Pac-10 hitters at the University of Washington. Hudson wasclearly the better pitcher Sunday, as he led his Braves to a series split witha 7-1 win over the first-place Giants.I do think you learn from watching other players, Giants manager Bruce Bochysaid. The way Hudson pitched tonight shows you how important it is to poundthe strike zone and use your defense and thats what he did. Keep the ball downand hit your spots and you dont need to try strike out guys. Thats what makeshim successful.Lincecum wasnt ready to admit he should emulate Hudson,pointing out that the 14-year MLB veteran depends on a sinker that hasdifferent action than Lincecums running, two-seam fastball. Definitely, Lincecum said, when asked if he could learnfrom Hudson. But, I mean, Im not a sinkerball pitcher, either. So I cantjust rely on a sinker thats going to keep dropping down as the game goes on. Iguess those are things that you could add in to your repertoire. Mines justbeen consistently getting a good, running two-seamer. Lincecum, the man with just nine quality starts in 27outings this season after throwing 52 combined in his Cy Young years of 2008and 2009, instead blamed yet another poor performance on rhythm. He walked leadoffman Michael Bourn and gave up two singles and issued another free pass en routeto a two-run deficit before his offense even got a chance against Hudson. Atlantassecond run came on a single off the bat of Braves catcher Brian McCann, who droppeda bloop perfectly in between second baseman Marco Scutaro, centerfielder AngelPagan and rightfielder Hunter Pence. But its still a line drive in the boxscore.I was fighting myself a lot in that first inning to find a rhythm, Lincecumsaid. You hope to get bad contact and I did on the ground ball (a JasonHeyward single) and the blooper by McCann, but those dont necessarily go inyour favor.Bochysassessment was similar: Lincecum simply struggled to find the proper mechanicsthat leads to a rhythm that at one time made him so dominant.He was fighting himself quite a bit, Bochy said. He wasout of synch out there. We even talked about it during the game. He felt likehe was too quick. He was trying to get his rhythm out there. And I dont knowif he was over-amped or what the first inning, but he just had trouble gettingthe ball where he wanted.Unfortunately for the Giants, early problems have become more of the rule thanthe exception with Lincecum this season. He has now given up 25 runs in thefirst frame, which leads the major leagues.The first inning is a critical inning, Bochy said. Thats when thepitcher is trying to get in synch and get in a rhythm. And good pitchers,sometimes you say you have to get them early before they get settled in. WithTimmy, its been an issue at times.Lincecum didnt dance around the problem in his postgameinterview, sharing the now-typical soul searching that has followed many of hispoor outings.You always feel like you couldve avoided it had you madebetter pitches, Lincecum said. So when those two runs do score, or a run doesscore on a bloop, you just end up blaming yourself. I was just getting behindon batters and wasnt really attacking the zone in that first inning, which ledto those runs.The Braves added a third run against Lincecum in the fourth inning on a homerun by Juan Francisco that travelled over 450 feet to the right-centerfieldbleachers. Lincecum finished the fourth, but was pulled for a pinch-hitter inthe bottom half after throwing 90 pitches.I felt better, more consistent throughout the next fourinnings, Lincecum said. But I wasted my pitches in the first.Lincecum threw 32 pitches in the first, while Hudson needed just seven first-inningpitches to get through Pagan, Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval, who finished 0-for-4on his bobblehead day.The Giants first three batters have been carrying the team of late, butcombined to go 0-for-11 with a walk on Sunday. A rhythm-less Lincecum coupled witha hitless top of the lineup is a sure recipe for a Giants loss. The top of the order is always critical to your offense,Bochy said. Angel, what a job hes done. And Scutaro really all of them.Sometimes youve got to give credit to the pitching and these last two starts,theyve thrown the ball very well.Hudson, effectively using his sinker to keep the Giants bats quiet and hispitch count down, cruised through seven innings and now owns a six-game winstreak against San Francisco, spanning nine starts. He was on top of his game, Bochy said. It was strike oneit seemed like to every hitter. And thats how you want to pitch.Thats how Bochy wants to see Lincecum pitch, too. Instead, Lincecum went 3-0,2-0, and 2-0 to the first three batters he faced. While that certainly doesntsuggest Lincecum is on the brink of turning his season around, the one thingthat keeps him positive is his own optimism. When the bad starts keep pilingup, how does he do it?Just knowing that the next day is a new day, Lincecum said.I know that sounds really clich, but you can always come back from the dayand work hard and not leave anything out there.

Tough luck: Rich Hill throws nine no-hit innings, loses on walk-off HR in 10th

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AP

Tough luck: Rich Hill throws nine no-hit innings, loses on walk-off HR in 10th

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Dodgers lefty Rich Hill lost his perfect game on an error in the ninth inning, then lost his no-hitter on a leadoff home run in the 10th by Josh Harrison that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates over Los Angeles 1-0 Wednesday night.

Hill became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1995 to take a no-hit try into extra innings.

The Pirates didn't have a runner until Jordy Mercer led off the ninth with a sharp grounder that smacked off third baseman Logan Forsythe's glove for an error. Hill retired the next three batters.

Hill (9-5) came back out for the 10th and Harrison sent his 99th pitch of the night into the first row of seats in left field, just out of the reach of Los Angeles leftfielder Curtis Granderson. Hill struck out 10 without a walk.

Juan Nicasio (2-5) picked up the win after working the top of the 10th.

After Mercer reached in the ninth, Hill quickly retired the next three batters. Chris Stewart laid down a sacrifice bunt, Jose Osuna grounded out to Forsythe and when shortstop Corey Seager gobbled up a grounder by Starling Marte, Hill held the Pirates hitless for nine innings.

But to get official credit for a no-hitter under Major League Baseball rules, a pitcher must complete the game - going nine innings isn't enough if it goes into extras. Back in 1959, a Pirates pitcher had perhaps the most famous near-miss of all when Harvey Haddix lost his perfect game and the game itself in the 13th at Milwaukee.

In what's been a charmed season for the Dodgers, a 37-year-old journeyman received an ovation from the Pirates crowd at PNC Park as he walked off the mound after the ninth. A large mass of fans clad in Dodger blue sitting behind the Los Angeles dugout rose to its feet after taking in the latest remarkable night in a season full of them for the team chasing the best regular season record in major-league history.

Rather than go to the best bullpen in the majors, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts sent Hill back out to see if he could keep the no-hitter going.

The appearance of his No. 44 jersey sent a jolt through the crowd of 19,859. It also proved to be one inning too many.

One batter, in fact. Hill could only watch the ball sail over the fence and, without expression, walked to the dugout.

"We knew we had a chance to win with one hit," Harrison said later.

Harrison broke up a no-hit bid by Detroit's Justin Verlander with two outs in the ninth in 2012. That game ended in a Pittsburgh loss. This one ended with Harrison sprinting toward a mob of teammates at home plate while Hill left as the losing pitcher following the best game of his career.

Hill raced through eight innings thanks in part to impeccable control and some spectacular defense behind him, most notably a diving grab by second baseman Chase Utley on a liner by Josh Bell leading off the eighth.

Bell was ruled safe on a close play at first in the second inning, but the call was overturned when replay showed Hill tagged him just before his foot hit the bag. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez also made a sliding grab on a bunt attempt by Harrison in the fourth but otherwise, Hill was in firm command.

Hill had come close to perfection in the past. Last Sept. 10, he retired all 21 batters at Miami before Roberts pulled him after seven innings and 89 pitches because of a recurrence of blisters on his pitching hand. He also was dealing with a groin injury.

In December, Hill re-signed as a free agent with the Dodgers, getting a three-year deal worth $48 million. The contract was quite a reward for a former journeyman who, as recently as 2015, was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League.

Hill began this night with a 47-32 record in a career that began in 2005 and took him from the Chicago Cubs to Baltimore, then to Boston, Cleveland, the Angels, the Yankees, Oakland and the Dodgers. Hill has overcome serious injuries during his career, including a torn labrum in 2009 and elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2011.

Trevor Williams matched Hill out for out, if not pitch for pitch. The Pirates rookie kept Los Angeles off the board for eight innings, letting Hill to line out in the fourth to leave the bases loaded in the fourth, using a pair of double plays in the fifth and sixth and getting Forsythe to line out after a nine-pitch at bat with two on and two outs in the eighth.

The Pirates have been no-hit nine teams in team history. For nine innings it looked like they were on their way to a 10th. One swing from Harrison changed all that.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (lower back strain) will make a rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. Roberts said the team considered having Kershaw return directly to the majors on Saturday but decided to exercise caution with such a large lead in the division. ... RHP Yu Darvish (lower back tightness) will be activated off the disabled list on Sunday and start against Milwaukee.

Pirates: Trainer Todd Tomczyk is "optimistic" RF Gregory Polanco will return from a strained left hamstring before the end of the season. Polanco is currently on the 10-day disabled list for a third time this season because of hamstring trouble. ... C Francisco Cervelli (left wrist inflammation) is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday and could return to the lineup.

UP NEXT:
Dodgers: Hyun-Jin Riu (4-6, 3.45 ERA) is undefeated in his last eight starts, going 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA since June 17.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl (6-8, 4.52) will try to bounce back from his worst start of the season on Thursday. Kuhl gave up eight runs in three-plus innings last week against St. Louis.

Two events in Wednesday's win show change in Jarrett Parker's luck

Two events in Wednesday's win show change in Jarrett Parker's luck

SAN FRANCISCO -- There have been more than 6,500 doubles hit in the big leagues this season. Only 55 have had an exit velocity of less than 62 mph. Only five of those 55 came with the go-ahead run on base.

So, it was a somewhat rare event when Jarrett Parker checked his swing, accidentally made contact, and drove in the go-ahead run with a two-run double. On a related note, Parker didn't care.

He's not one for luck or karma. He's also not a big student of exit velocity. Asked if he wanted to know how hard his double was hit, Parker shook his head.

"Nope," he said. "Don't care."

The rest of the team didn't, either. The Giants figure they're owed a few more in this down year, and nobody cared how the winning run came across in a 4-2 victory over the Brewers.

"You hear good things happen when you put the ball in play, and he did," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a break for us and we'll take it. It went our way there with that check-swing, which you'll take. We've had some tough breaks."

For a moment after the series clinching win, Parker thought he had suffered another bad one. He felt something grab in his right arm as he went up for the celebratory jump with the rest of the outfield, and he said he was thinking about it as he jogged off the field. Parker missed 96 games earlier this year after fracturing his clavicle. That delayed what appears to be a bit of a breakout. Parker said his arm felt fine once he got back to the clubhouse. 

"I was worried about it at first but I shook it off," he said. "It was just a cramp."

That was a relief for Parker, and it kept the good vibes going. After the way Parker's season started, he certainly is owed a bit more in that department.