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Lincecum pitches another gem for Giants

The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum admitted he didn't have his no-hit stuff when he took the mound Thursday afternoon to face the Milwaukee Brewers.

He had even more in his arsenal.

Mixing a curveball he didn't use much when he no-hit the San Diego Padres on July 13, Lincecum nearly duplicated that feat against the Milwaukee Brewers, giving up one hit in eight shutout innings of a 4-1 victory.

Brandon Belt provided all the offensive support the right-hander needed with a three-run, first-inning homer as the Giants salvaged a series split with the Brewers.

"We hit one ball hard off him and that's the one hit we got," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Juan Francisco's sharp double to right field in the third inning. "He had very good stuff. You could see it from the very first batter."

Lincecum (6-11) posted his first win since the no-hitter. He struck out eight in eight innings, allowing only two base runners -- the double by Francisco and a fifth-inning walk by Jeff Bianchi.

"I've tried not to think about the past. One pitch at a time," said Lincecum, who entered the game as one of just three National League pitchers with 11 or more losses. "I was just trying to stay within myself."

The Giants, who had lacked power at home and gotten no production out of the leadoff spot in recent games, resolved both issues in a decisive first inning against Brewers starter Donovan Hand (0-4).

Leadoff hitter Marco Scutaro set the stage for the difference-making inning when he battled Hand for 10 pitches before lining the 11th into left-center field for a single. Remarkably, it was the first hit for a Giants leadoff man in their last 23 plate appearances.

After Brandon Crawford doubled and Pablo Sandoval flied out to shallow center field, Belt, batting cleanup for the first time in his big-league career, smacked an inside fastball just over the 25-foot-high brick wall in right field for his 12th home run of the season and a 3-0 lead.

The home run was the Giants' first in their last 12 home games, a span of 101 innings.

"It definitely felt good," said Belt, who received a promotion to the cleanup spot by being the Giants' hottest hitter in August. "I was looking for a ball up in the zone ... try to get it in the air and get the run in. Fortunately, he got enough of the plate that I could get around on it and hit it out."

Lincecum took it from there, getting 18 swing-and-misses from Brewers batters, the second most he has recorded this season. It was the fourth time this year that he has pitched at least six innings without allowing a run.

The former two-time Cy Young Award winner responded well to a pregame team meeting, one at which Giants players challenged each other to play with a sense of purpose in what could be a meaningless final 7 1/2 weeks of the season.

"Playing for nine innings," Lincecum said of the message that came about 12 hours after the Giants blew a late 1-0 lead in a 6-1 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday night. "I just wanted to do my part."

The Brewers denied the Giants their 11th shutout of the season by scoring a run off the San Francisco bullpen in the ninth. Jean Segura's one-out single off closer Sergio Romo scored Khris Davis, who had opened the inning with a pinch-double against right-hander Sandy Rosario.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it was an easy decision to take the ball out of Lincecum's hands after 108 pitches.

"Could he have gone out there? Yes," he said. "But we already really pushed him hard one game (the 148-pitch effort in the no-hitter). It's not worth the risk."

The Giants added to their lead in the second inning when Scutaro doubled to left field with two outs and, after a wild pitch, scored on a single by Crawford.

Scutaro, who had been 0-for-9 batting leadoff on Monday and Tuesday before getting Wednesday off, and Crawford each had three of the Giants' 10 hits.

NOTES: The Giants' last home run at AT&T Park before Belt's first-inning shot was hit by C Buster Posey on July 20 against Arizona. The 101-inning drought was the fourth longest in the club's West Coast history. ... Giants RF Hunter Pence was caught stealing on an aborted hit-and-run play in the first inning, ending a 17-for-17 streak, which was the longest season-opening run since RF Bobby Bonds began the 1970 season 18-for-18. ... The Brewers are expected to recall 2B Scooter Gennett from Triple-A Nashville before Friday's game in Seattle and place 2B Rickie Weeks on the disabled list. Gennett was demoted before Wednesday's game, during which Weeks strained his left hamstring. Weeks left the team on Thursday to be examined by team physician William Raasch in Milwaukee. ... RHP Ryan Vogelsong is scheduled to start the Giants' series opener at home against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night. It will be the right-hander's first major-league appearance since breaking bones in and below his right pinkie finger on May 20 against Washington. ... The Giants made a change in backup catchers before Thursday's game, promoting Hector Sanchez from Triple-A Fresno and designating Guillermo Quiroz for assignment.
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