SAN DIEGO – The Giants would like nothing better than to get their house sorted before the All-Star break, win a couple series, restore their confidence and take a sense of normalcy into the second half.
They were treated to another afternoon of the new normal for Tim Lincecum against the San Diego Padres. Facing the Padres for the first time since June 25, when he no-hit them for the second time in two years, Lincecum dominated yet again. Brooks Conrad hit a solo home run in the seventh, but that was the only run he allowed in the Giants’ 5-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Petco Park.
“Timmy has been on such a good roll,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s been fun to watch just how posed he’s been and how easy his delivery has been. He’s really in the zone so consistently and that’s why he’s having so much success. He has a better idea what he wants to do. He’s prepared before the game.”
Lincecum extended his streak to 23 scoreless innings before Conrad’s home run. That’s the only run he’s allowed over his last three starts – and the last one before Sunday came against the Cardinals, not the Padres.
“I have an idea what I want to do with these guys,” said Lincecum, who gave up his first hit to San Diego in 12-plus innings when Jake Goebbert singled with two out in the fourth. “I’m not going to overpower them. I’ve got to mix pitches and hit locations. I feel my confidence is just kind of up right now.”
The Giants need to say the same for Sergio Romo, who allowed his seventh home run of the season – a career high, already – in the eighth inning. Romo issued a nine-pitch walk to Carlos Quentin in the eighth before Yasmani Grandal took him deep to throw some nervousness into what had been a 5-1 lead.
After the game, Bochy confirmed that Santiago Casilla would be his closer. Casilla needed 10 pitches to record three outs and convert the save in the ninth.
“That’s fair to say right now,” Bochy said. “Sergio has been battling it a little bit. It’s not like him to walk a guy but he’ll be a big part of this bullpen. We’ve got to get him back to hitting his spots.”
For now, it’s hard to envision Bochy putting Romo in any kind of leveraged situation until he can gain some consistency with his slider again. He has allowed six home runs on the pitch. He gave up just one homer on a slider last year.
Bochy used Jeremy Affeldt for two outs in the seventh and two more in the eighth, and that bridge role is where he can have the biggest impact. Still, the Giants find themselves without a dependable right-handed setup man with Romo and Jean Machi both way too predictable and struggling to locate their out pitches.
“We all have our moments,” Bochy said of Romo. “He’ll get through this. He’s a tough kid.”
The Giants must continue to get by without leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, who is out through the All-Star break and maybe for awhile after that. So they welcomed five hits and five runs from Hunter Pence and Joe Panik in the Nos. 1-2 spots in the order.
Pence is tied for second in the NL in both hits and runs scored, and is headed to the All-Star Game. He’ll remain at leadoff as long as Pagan is out. As for Panik, Bochy said the rookie might get another start or two in the No.2 spot but he was more apt to return Brandon Belt to that place in the lineup on a regular basis. Belt hit third because the Giants had a lineup that was missing both Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval for just the second time this season.
Posey was getting a day game off after a night game and Sandoval was getting treatment for a bone bruise on his left elbow. He’s day-to-day and questionable to start on Monday in Oakland.
That’s right. The Giants will play their next four games against the crosstown A’s, who have six All-Stars (plus Jeff Samardzija) and a firm grasp on the title of Best Team in Ball.
It’s hard to get your house in order when you invite a demolition crew over. But the Giants will try to keep it tidy over the next four games.