Giants should be happy with 4-5 roadtrip
Tim Lincecum walked five Braves, but still turned in just his fifth quality start in 14 outings this season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ATLANTA – Tim Lincecum is forever a prime topic when he pitches. And when he happens to pitch on national television, he’ll be dissected like a frog.
But before you leap to any conclusions about the Giants’ 3-0 loss Sunday night, know that it wasn’t most directly because Lincecum walked the leadoff batters in each of his first three innings, perspired like he was about to be handed a blindfold and cigarette, and generally lived on the edge that has become his start-to-start reality.
No, this game was decided in left field, under the shadow of the giant cow mascot of a fast-food joint.
Andres Torres couldn’t make a difficult catch in the third inning. Justin Upton did in the fourth. And then, if the difference wasn’t stark enough, Torres let a slow, rolling base hit make a mockery of his major league skills in the sixth.
Ramiro Pena ended up on third base on a single that wouldn’t have eluded a Ball Dude at AT&T Park. It was an apt metaphor for the Giants, who let a winning road trip slip away from them while losing the final two games at Turner Field.
They dropped two of three in Atlanta and went 4-5 on their trip to Arizona, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum (4-7) managed to post his fifth official quality start out of his 14 assignments this season, but the game threatened to burst open like the plumbing at Oakland Coliseum.
Lincecum had trouble from the windup and walked the leadoff batter in each of his first three innings. Twice it came back to bite him.
He winced the moment his 0-2 slider to Freddie Freeman left his hand in the first inning, knowing he didn’t bury the pitch. Freeman, who hit a walk-off single off Sergio Romo a night earlier, lined an RBI single.
Lincecum walked Jason Heyward to start the third inning, and after Justin Upton hit into a fielder’s choice, Freeman followed with another single to set the table for B.J. Upton. The elder of the Upton brothers hit a hard shot to left-center and Torres was able to get close enough to dive for it. But he never left his feet and the ball got past him for an RBI double and a 2-0 lead.
Lincecum issued an intentional walk and avoided the big inning when Chris Johnson swung at a 3-2 slider below the knees and grounded into a double play.
The Braves scored once more against Lincecum in the sixth, and this one was all Torres’ doing. Pena’s single was innocent enough, but Torres planted his legs and didn’t adjust when the ball rolled slightly to his right. It scooted past him, Pena took two extra bases, and Jordan Schafer executed a safety squeeze.
Lincecum was charged with three runs (two earned) on six hits and five walks (one intentional) in six innings.
Right-hander Jake Dunning made his major league debut with a scoreless eighth inning. With a sizeable rooting section in attendance, he pitched around a double and a wild pitch.
At the plate
The Giants were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base, but you could blame Justin Upton for some of that.
The Giants loaded the bases in the fourth inning when Joaquin Arias sent a flare into shallow left field. Upton covered just enough ground and made a full-extension dive, then held his glove aloft as he tumbled on the grass to show the umpires he didn’t trap the ball. The catch saved at least two runs, since the runners were going on contact with two outs.
The Braves made another run-saving play on Arias in the sixth. With runners at first and second and two outs, Arias hit a ground single up the middle. But shortstop Andrelton Simmons seemed to stretch like rubber as he made a diving stop to keep it on the infield and save a run. Nick Noonan flied out to strand the bases loaded.
Julio Teheran could thank those two plays for allowing him to pitch shutout ball over six innings. The Giants went nine up, nine down against three Braves relievers, and Craig Kimbrel struck out a pair in a dominant ninth inning to nail down the save.
Torres is a platoon outfielder, yet his five errors in left field are the most in the major leagues. Some perspective: there are eight teams that began Sunday without committing a single error in left field.
And Torres has made several other mental miscues this season that didn’t go down as an error in the box score.
[RELATED: Bochy defends error-prone Torres]
Gregor Blanco was fabulous in center field, though. He made a diving catch of Justin Upton’s drive in the first inning. Then his full-extension dive robbed Freeman of his fourth hit of the game in the seventh inning.
Noonan, the second baseman, also made a diving stop of Simmons’ grounder up the middle and scampered to his feet in time to throw for the out.
The Braves announced 33,681 paid, and all were spared from listening to John Kruk.
The Giants have little time to rest before beginning a weeklong homestand and a three-game series with the surging San Diego Padres on Monday. Barry Zito (4-5, 4.79 ERA), who caught a commercial flight earlier Sunday, will take the mound against right-hander Edinson Volquez (5-5, 5.87). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.
It’ll be Matt Cain (5-3, 4.70) against hard-throwing right-hander Andrew Cashner (5-3, 3.52) on Tuesday and Madison Bumgarner (6-4, 3.30) against left-hander Eric Stults (6-5, 3.28) on Wednesday.