Giants bail out Lincecum with late comeback

AT&T PARK — Overcoming a shaky second inning, Tim Lincecum and the Giants offense refused to quit, erasing a four-run deficit with seven unanswered runs to beat the Rockies 9-6.

The first inning went as well as the Giants could have hoped. Lincecum looked to have regained his old form, needing just nine pitches to retire the Rockies in order.

In the bottom of the inning, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro lead off for the Giants with back-to-back singles. Pablo Sandoval hit a long fly ball to advance both runners before Hunter Pence hit an infield single to bring home Pagan, giving San Francisco a 1-0 lead. Pence now has a seven-game hitting streak.

The wheels fell off for Lincecum in the second inning. He walked Troy Tulowitzki to lead off the frame. Michael Cuddyer then hit a routine ground ball, but Scutaro’s throw to second would be too low for Crawford to handle, allowing Cuddyer to reach and Tulowitzki to move to third.

Todd Helton would tie the game on a ground out. After walking Wilin Rosario and Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio, Colorado had the bases loaded.

But unlike his last start in Los Angeles where he was able to get out of jams, Lincecum couldn’t make the big pitch when he needed to.

Dexter Fowler would crush a double to score two runs, and Josh Rutledge would follow it up with an RBI single, giving the Rockies a 5-1 lead.

In the nightmare second inning, Lincecum gave up three walks, two hits, and five runs. In his other five innings, Lincecum gave up two hits, one run, and one walk while striking out six. He needed 32 pitches to get through the second and 72 for the other five innings.

Last season, Lincecum tended to have one inning in which he struggled to get outs. Most often, it was the first.

His ERA in the first inning of games last year was a staggering 7.64, much higher than his season ERA of 5.18. Last year, these tough innings would usually throw him off for the rest of the game.

But for the second start in a row, Lincecum was competitive even when he didn’t have his best stuff.

Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum

“After giving up those five runs, just trying to settle in and be competitive and battle and stay out there as long as I could – that’s what I was trying to do those last four innings.”

The Giants got their second run by playing good fundamental baseball. Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the second with a walk. After Lincecum bunted him over, Scutaro would single him home.

The Rockies would regain a four-run lead on a solo home run by Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth inning. It seemed that Colorado was cruising to an easy win, but the Giants offense would come alive in the sixth.

Gregor Blanco and Hector Sanchez led off the inning with back-to-back walks. Then Crawford delivered the biggest hit of the night – a three-run homer to cut the Rockies lead to one.

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford

“We were down by four, so to say I was trying to hit a sac fly wouldn’t really be true. I was trying to hit the ball hard. I was still trying to elevate it just in case, if I do hit a fly ball, we’d still get at least one run in…and I hit it pretty well.”

Pinch-hitting for Lincecum, Nick Noonan and then Pagan would both single, and Scutaro would bunt them both into scoring position. After Sandoval was intentionally walked to load the bases, Hunter Pence would collect his 1,000th career hit, an RBI single to tie the game at 6-6.

The combined bullpen efforts of Jose Mijares, George Kontos and Santiago Casilla kept the Rockies hitless and the game tied through the seventh and eighth, giving the Giants offense the chance to strike once again.

Andres Torres, pinch-hitting for Casilla, led off the bottom of the eighth with a double over the head of the right fielder, Cuddyer. Then Pagan, with his third single of the night, would drive him home, giving the Giants their first lead since the first inning.

Scutaro would follow it up with his third single of the game, and Sandoval would single home Pagan. And with two outs, Blanco would get an infield single to bring home Scutaro, giving the Giants a 9-6 lead and completing the comeback.

Sergio Romo pitched a perfect ninth to seal his 5th save of the year.

Notes

The Giants have won eight straight against the Rockies, currently the longest active winning streak against any rival in Major League Baseball. … Crawford’s home run was the first of the season and only his second career homer at AT&T Park. … Scutaro was 3-for-4. Entering the game he had only two hits on the season. … In the homestand finale, a battle of lefties: Barry Zito (1-0, 0.00) opposes Jeff Francis (1-0, 1.50). First pitch at 12:45 p.m.