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Lincecum, Giants claim series vs. Dodgers

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Two prominent pitching names with noteworthy back stories and very uncertain futures were the backdrop against which a bitter rivalry wrapped up the first series of the season Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants renewed acquaintances at Chavez Ravine, with Josh Beckett facing Tim Lincecum in a matchup of pitchers with much to prove this year after struggling in 2012. The result was a bit of a push in the head-to-head competition but a major win for the Giants, who beat the Dodgers 5-3 in front of a sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium.

The Giants won the opening series of the season, 2-1, against their heated rivals from Los Angeles.

The Dodgers spent all the money last winter, and on paper it looks like they've closed the gap on the world champions. But for now, the Giants remain on top.

Lincecum had a lot to do with that Wednesday, as did the woeful middle of the Dodgers' order, which is big on names and salary but was small on production in the first three games.

Lincecum, who finished 10-15 last year with a 5.18 ERA and struggled this spring with a 0-3 record and a 10.57 ERA, surrendered a first-inning run but benefited from a four-run third by his offense -- including Pablo Sandoval's two-run home run.

Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, left after five innings. He gave up three hits and two runs, one of which was earned.

And while he walked a career-high seven batters, the Dodgers could not take advantage.

Considering Lincecum's 2012 season and his struggles this spring, it was about as welcome a start to the season as possible.

"It's not like a huge burden for me. It's just more of an expectation," Lincecum said. "I mean, when you start out the way I did in my career, you want to stay consistent. But for me to stay consistent, I'd have to win Cy Young after Cy Young. It's definitely out of my control to win a Cy Young, but I definitely want to put up those kind of numbers."

Beckett was making his first start of the season, but it was significant considering the wobbly year he suffered through last season and the abundance of starters the Dodgers have at their disposal.

In other words, outside of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and maybe rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu, everyone else's hold on jobs is tenuous at best.

The scoreboard wasn't kind to Beckett after five innings, with the Giants leading 4-1, but Beckett was more effective than the score indicated.

The Giants' four runs came in the third inning, and only two were earned thanks to an error by second baseman Skip Schumaker.

Otherwise, Beckett was mostly effective while giving up six hits and five runs -- three earned, including home runs to Sandoval and Hunter Pence -- over six innings.

"I made some pitches when I needed to, then I didn't make some when I needed to," Beckett said.

Meanwhile, with Matt Kemp going 0 for 4 and stranding six runners and Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier combining to go 0 for 9, the Dodgers' offense was of little help for the second straight night despite drawing seven walks.

"When you see seven walks, that tells you we're being somewhat patient. But we're still getting anxious to drive in runs," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It seems like we're still a little bit anxious when we get the counts in our favor. We still want to be a little more aggressive. We're hitting the pitch they want rather than waiting for the pitch we want."

When Kemp came to the plate in the sixth with the bases loaded in a 5-2 game, Giants reliever George Kontos got Kemp to ground into the double play.

And while Mark Ellis scored from third, the damage was more than minimized.

"With no outs, you definitely want to make Kemp hit the ball on the ground. I just approached him the same way I approached him last year. We went at him with sinkers inside," Kontos said. "And with that closed-off stance, he doesn't really get to that inside heater very well. So I threw him an inside heater, he put a little bit of a defensive swing on it and rolled it over to third base and we were able to turn two."

It was that kind of night for the Dodgers, who were 1 of 14 with runners in scoring position.

As a result, the Giants head back to the Bay Area taking two of three in L.A. while the Dodgers try to figure out how to get their offense going.

NOTES: Buster Posey got the start for the Giants at first base rather than at catcher, where he typically works with Lincecum. Instead, the Giants went with Hector Sanchez. ... The Dodgers opted to move Luis Cruz over to shortstop and sit Justin Sellers, who had two throwing errors the night before. Juan Uribe got the start at third.
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