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.

Giants notes: Belt gets start in left field; Span 'day-to-day'

Giants notes: Belt gets start in left field; Span 'day-to-day'

DENVER -- Brandon Belt spent some time Sunday morning playing balls off the wall at Coors Field to get accustomed to life as a left fielder. He used to borrow Javier Lopez's glove, but with Lopez retired, Belt snagged a Chad Chop BP glove. It's an outfield glove that Chop said was a gift from Tim Lincecum, and it's apparently from Japanese Nike, whatever that means. 

Belt looked back fondly on his one day in left field last year in Arizona. 

"I was amazing," he said. "I had one Defensive Run Saved."

It's true, he did. Belt made a nice running catch that he brought up as reporters were talking to Denard Span.

"I don't remember that," Span said. 

"I ran into the fence but I stayed in the game," Belt replied. 

Span smiled and admitted he had no comeback. An X-ray came back negative after Span's collision Saturday, and he's hopeful he'll only miss a few days. If it's more than that, the Giants will put him on the 10-day DL. Span had a similar issue with his SC joint in 2012 and missed several weeks. 

"It's a little sore," he said. "Right now I'm day-to-day. The good thing is I've got range of motion."

Span said he immediately thought of Jarrett Parker as he hit the wall. He knew the injury wasn't as bad as Parker's, but "I knew something didn't feel right."

With Span out, Gorkys Hernandez starts in center and Hunter Pence is the backup there. This could be the start of some serious roster juggling. Bochy said the staff has talked about getting Belt more time in left so Buster Posey and Nick Hundley, who is swinging it well, can both start. Eduardo Nuñez is one possibility. Michael Morse and Mac Williamson are not ready yet. Drew Stubbs could be the first one up; he has looked great, according to the reports Bochy is getting. 

"We'll go day-to-day and see how it goes," Bochy said. 

--- If you missed it last night, Bochy isn't thrilled with his starting pitchers, and for good reason. You can talk about Hernandez and Chris Marrero and all that until you're blue in the face, but the resources have been spent on the rotation, and it's been an issue on and off field.

 

In series of roster moves, Mariners call up former Giants pitcher

In series of roster moves, Mariners call up former Giants pitcher

Chris Heston is back in the major leagues.

The former Giants pitcher was recalled as part of a flurry of roster moves by the struggling Mariners prior to Sunday's game against the A's in Oakland.

First baseman Dan Vogelbach was also recalled, while outfielder Leonys Martin was designated for assignment and pitcher Chase De Jong was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.

Heston was traded by the Giants to Mariners in December for a player to be named later.

In parts of three seasons with the Giants, Heston went 13-12 with a 4.16 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 188 innings.