Lincecum locks down Cards to stop skid

AT&T PARK — Hello, July.

Just a day into a new month of baseball, the Giants looked fresh and clean of their June swoon — in which they went 10-16 — with a 5-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

But, all time-related myths aside, San Francisco looked like the Giants of May.

Tim Lincecum (W, 7-5, 4.06 ERA) made a strong outing after a no-no in his last start, struck out six and allowed just four hits in eight shutout innings.

Like manager Bruce Bochy ensured during their times of trouble, the team’s success relies on the strength of the starting pitcher, and once he’s locked in, the offense will follow suit.

It all started in the fourth inning. Lincecum escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in which he struck out Allen Craig and Jon Jay (both on sliders) before forcing Daniel Descalso to ground out and escape unscathed. Though a half inning, those three outs are indicative of Lincecum’s growth as a finesse pitcher.

The start after his no-hitter last year, Lincecum allowed eight runs in just 3.2 innings to Cincinnati. The offense got seven hits without any payout that day.

But in 2014, Lincecum carried his no-hitter mojo onward. He said his progressions is just a matter of sinking in and varying pitches:

“I think I’m just working with what I got, and it’s not 93 anymore so I’m just trying to vary my pitches, vary my times. And like you saw last game I’m just trying to vary my pitches 30/30/30 within fastball, curveball, slider, change-up and I think I did something very similar today. … I wasn’t afraid to go to any pitch in any count.”

And, like Bochy predicted, the Giants’ offense — facing St. Louis’ Marco Gonzales (L, 0-1, 9.64 ERA) in just his second career start — took no time to back him up. In the fourth inning, Hunter Pence hit a leadoff single to center before Buster Posey smacked a double to right field to score Pence.

In that same inning, Pablo Sandoval hit a milestone with a two-run shot to left field, his 100th career home run, to make the score 3-0. Said Sandoval of his big homer:

“It’s hard to get one so to get 100 means a lot to me. I’ve been through a lot in my career…I was excited to get it in this moment that we need it.”

The Giants had only hit two home runs in the past 11 games, a trend that Bochy is glad to see the team get back into the groove with, especially for Sandoval:

“Nice milestone. 100 home runs. We got to see them all, I know I did. I know he’s pretty happy about it and its always a big number and the next one, 200, 300, and its something we’ve been missing too, the homerun. … They had some fun after the game and had a little toast for him.”

In the fifth, the Giants tacked on two more runs. Juan Perez hit a leadoff single and Pence followed with a double to bring Perez home.

Gonzales was taken out of the game following consecutive walks to Sandoval and Morse, but a Hector Sanchez ground out brought the final run home.

The Giants face St. Louis on Wednesday at 7:15 for Game 2 of the three-game series.

Notes

Brandon Belt is scheduled to play first base for Fresno tomorrow for 7 innings. Bochy said he could be back in San Francisco by Friday. … Angel Pagan will take a trip to Los Angeles tomorrow to visit a specialist about his back.

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