Lincecum chooses a different weapon to defeat Dodgers

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Lincecum chooses a different weapon to defeat Dodgers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES There was a time when Tim Lincecum could mowthrough any lineup using just two blades.

His fastball and his changeup. Both thrown with the sameblurry arm speed.

The changeup was not fair. It faded. It disappeared. It wasperfectly disguised as another roaring, rabbit fastball out of the hand. Thenit would tumble like a puff of dying exhaust underneath so many hopeful bats.

The changeup was the pitch that won Lincecum two Cy Youngs,that helped to deliver the Giants a World Series title, that promised to keep him inthe game many years longer than the projections of all those amateur scouts wholooked at his scrawny body and draped their reports with red flags.

But Lincecum has not been himself this season. He took themound Tuesday night with a 5.45 ERA, and no more room for baby steps or moral victories. First place was at stake. And in manyrespects, this was his most important regular-season start as a Giant. Whilenot yet in the backstretch, this pennant race is about to kick into a swifterpace. Lincecum had to prove to himself, to his coaches and teammates, that hecould keep up as he once did.

When warriors go into battle, they favor their truest blade.For Lincecum, youd pick his changeup, right?

He did not.

He threw three of them, maybe four.

Outs are just outs, said Lincecum, who won enough battlesover 5 23 innings of a heartening 4-1 victory at Dodger Stadium. Itdoesnt matter whether you use your changeup, slider or fastball or whatever.

You talk to your catcher and get feedback. If a certainpitch is working, you dont have to go to the others except maybe to flash it.The fastball was good and the slider was good, so thats what we went with.

The slider did not feel good in the spring, youll recall.Lincecum vowed not to throw it, for a few reasons. The pitch tended toexacerbate a blister issue on the tip of his middle finger. But mostly, he foundthat throwing the slider made it more difficult to find and keep a consistentrelease point with his fastball.

Miidway through his second start of the season, Lincecumrealized he needed his slider. The plan changed.

It continues to evolve.

In front of a hostile, sellout crowd, Lincecum threw 47fastballs, 25 sliders, and although Pitch FX had him at 10 changeups, Lincecumestimated he threw less than half that many.

Essentially, he was a fastball-slider pitcher.

Its a pitch I can throw across the plate that breaks awayfrom right-handers and in on lefties, he said of his slider. Its a pitchIve been looking for, really, to open up the plate to both sides.

Thats what makes this game fun and exciting, he continued.Its a chess game every day. One year, you might go fastball-changeup. Thenext year you might find fastball-slider is what works.

The trouble Ive had is knowing what to improve or what tochange instead of putting emphasis on the right things and relying on what gotme here.

That means relying on what works on a given night, too. On this 75-degree night at Chavez Ravine, during those crisis moments when Lincecum has failed to make a pitch so many times thisseason, he knew he could put stock in the slider. He threw one to Matt Kempwith a 3-1 count in the fourth inning. Swing and a miss. Then Lincecum followedwith another that resulted in a double-play grounder.

When the Dodgers placed hits to load the bases in the sixth,Lincecum faced Kemp again. He threw a fastball for a called strike. And then

I wasnt going to compound the problem, he said. I wasjust trying to get one out. I didnt care if it was a sacrifice fly. I couldtell from the first slider I threw him in the game that if I put it in the rightspot, just off the black, it could just be a pop fly.

Lincecum threw it off the black. Kemp did better than pop itup, but his drive to right field held no danger of reaching the pavilion. HunterPence gloved it for a sacrifice fly. It was the only run Lincecum allowed.

It should be noted that Lincecums fastball had more life,too. He said he didnt change his workout routine between starts or make anymechanical tweaks from the last outing -- a messy, 96-pitch night againstWashington in which he completed just four innings.

Perhaps he was a bit fresher with an extra day, or a littlemore amped because of the opponent. For whatever reason, his average velocitywas 92.4 mph and he topped out at almost 94.

But he didnt try to blow away hitters with gas. He used itto set up the slider. He did exactly what manager Bruce Bochy hoped he would do: Keep making pitches, and never let up.

Thats a good sign for us, for him, Bochy said. I thoughthe did a really good job of pitching. He mixed it up well and used both sides.

Lincecum spoke of trying to erase his first-half failures.In the next breath, he acknowledged he cannot undo the past.

But in a pennantrace, there is no rear view.

Its all about that finishing kick, and no matter what weapon hechooses, the Giants are counting on Lincecum to be sharp.

I cant change what happened, he said. I can only makebetter pitches now.

Giants use big fifth, sixth innings to take down Cubs

Giants use big fifth, sixth innings to take down Cubs

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Giants starter Matt Cain gave up two runs — one earned — and three hits over two innings.

New Giants closer Mark Melancon tossed a 1-2-3 third inning in his first outing. Cain threw 40 pitches and Justin Ruggiano had an RBI double in a three-run fifth.

Javier Baez went 2 for 3 with an RBI double.

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy planned to give most of his pitchers one-inning stints during the first weekend of spring ball, but Matt Cain stretched it out to 40 pitches on Saturday. 

“I’ve had enough days off the past couple of years,” Cain said, smiling.

In his first start of a crucial spring, Cain threw two innings. He was charged with three hits and two runs, just one of them earned. 

“He’s in a good place right now with his arm strength,” Bochy said. “His delivery is consistent. I’m glad he got a lot of work today, to be honest. It’s something he needs as much as anybody on this staff, is work. He’s going to get it.”

Ty Blach, Cain’s biggest competition for the fifth starter spot, gave up four hits and one earned in his two innings. Neither pitcher was hit particularly hard, and both suffered a bit from iffy defense in the early innings of an 8-6 win over the Cubs. 

The inning separating Cain and Blach was notable for other reasons. Mark Melancon made his Giants debut, getting two groundouts and a fly to right in a quick inning. Melancon received a nice ovation, and he noted the opponent — a Cubs team that helped guarantee the Giants would spend big on a closer — but he didn’t put any added importance on the outing. 

“It doesn’t matter what I do out there right now,” he said. 

Melancon’s new teammates might disagree. Spring or not, the Giants certainly enjoyed watching a closer breeze through his inning. Especially against the Cubs. 

“He’s a pro,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be out there working on stuff, his command and pitches. It was good for Buster (Posey) to catch him. It was a good day for him.”

NOTABLE: On his first swing of the spring, Posey threw his bat up against the visiting dugout. It can only go uphill from there … Bryan Morris had a scoreless debut, striking out one … Josh Osich ran into some trouble in the eighth and gave up a pair of runs, but Bochy appreciated the way he fought his way out of the frame … Former Giants prospect Chris Dominguez started for the Cubs at first base. He had a couple of hits ... If you're headed to Goodyear for tomorrow's game, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Conor Gillaspie, Jimmy Rollins, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Trevor Brown will start behind Matt Moore. Also, if you're headed to Goodyear, I'm sorry. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez is limited to DH duty for now because of a sore throwing shoulder. Nuñez said the tightness popped up after some work in the weight room, but he’s not concerned at all. He said he would have played third base if Saturday’s game was a regular season contest. The Giants expect him in the field sometime next week. 

Nuñez also said it took five weeks after the season ended for his hamstring to get back to 100 percent, so apparently that injury was much worse than it first looked. Nuñez was out on the field before every NLDS game, trying to get clearance to return. He never quite got there. 

Will Smith (elbow) is just a day or two from throwing off flat ground, Bochy said. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants had hoped to have Johnny Cueto in camp this weekend, but he remains in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Cueto is waiting for a visa for his ill father, Domingo, who will travel to Scottsdale with Johnny. 

LIGHTER SIDE: Brandon Crawford spent a couple of minutes learning some of Jeff Samardzija’s mound moves. The impersonation is pretty solid.