ATLANTA (AP)—Saved by the stretch.
Despite the impressive numbers, Lincecum said he was struggling to throw strikes “in just about every inning” and decided to pitch from the stretch starting in the sixth.
“I had to make an adjustment,” Lincecum said. “I felt a little more comfortable going from the stretch. Less moving parts. It’s easier to get toward the target, and that helped me out.”
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t concerned when Yunel Escobar, the first batter Lincecum faced while pitching out of the stretch, gave the Braves their first hit since Kelly Johnson’s single with one out in the second.
“Those first two innings he was out of sync, walking the leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “But that’s what you like about the kid. He adjusted. He did his job.”
Lincecum is now 12-2 in 21 starts that follow a loss for San Francisco, which had dropped five of six. The right-hander lowered his road ERA to 1.88, best in the majors, and the Giants improved to 9-1 in his 13 starts and one relief appearance away from home.
Showing no bad effects from the bruised knee that forced him to leave his last start, Lincecum (13-3) allowed one run and four walks in 7 2-3 innings. Five of his 10 strikeouts came with runners in scoring position.
Despite taking a liner off his knee in Houston and leaving his previous start Tuesday after 4 1-3 innings, Lincecum had a fluid delivery and lost none of his velocity, which was still around 95 mph in the eighth.
After warming up in the bullpen, he felt no need to wear a sleeve or any added protection on his knee.
“It was a dead issue,” Lincecum said. “I didn’t feel it at all. Nothing nagging at all.”
Bochy pulled his ace after Chipper Jones’ single gave the Braves two baserunners in the eighth. Reliever Jack Taschner allowed an RBI single to Mark Kotsay, the first batter he faced, and Bochy brought in closer Brian Wilson.
Wilson intentionally walked pinch-hitter Brian McCann before ending the eighth on Jeff Francoeur’s fielder’s choice grounder. Wilson then pitched the ninth to earn his NL-leading 33rd save in 35 chances,
“The last thing you want to do is give up somebody else’s runs,” Wilson said. “Giving up my runs, I really don’t care as long as I get the save, but it’s not as satisfying to save the game if you give up someone else’s runs.”
Rookie Charlie Morton (3-7) remained winless in seven starts at Turner Field after giving up three runs and seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings in his first career appearance against the Giants.
The Braves have lost five of six.
Lincecum improved to 17-0 and lowered his ERA to 3.13 when the Giants support him with three runs or more in his 29 career starts.
“When he throws an 83 mph slider, it’s tough to get locked into the zone,” Kotsay said after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Lincecum. “He’ll throw a curveball for a strike, then bounce one in the dirt, then throw a change-up down.”
Francoeur’s average dropped to .120 this year in 25 at-bats with the bases loaded. Over his previous two games, Francoeur had gone 7-for-14 with five RBIs to boost his overall season average 11 points to .233. … Winn is now hitting .444 this month in 63 at-bats. … San Francisco improved to 43-0 when leading after eight innings.