With all the ups and downs in recent seasons, including his demotion to the bullpen for the playoffs, Tim Lincecum can appreciate the strong starts when most everything goes right — reminding himself, from his own experiences, how quickly things change.
Backed by solo home runs from Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro, Lincecum looked in his best form so far in 2013 as the San Francisco Giants beat the Atlanta Braves 5-1 on Sunday to wrap up an impressive homestand.
Lincecum (3-2) struck out seven in seven scoreless innings to end a three-start winless stretch in which he went 0-2. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner also stopped a four-start skid against Atlanta, beating the Braves for the first time since April 11, 2010.
“I’ll take it,” Lincecum said. “But I’m not jumping up in the air right now. ... I’m happy about it, but it’s still a work in progress. I’m still working to get better.”
Belt hit a solo homer in the second, Sandoval connected in the third and Scutaro went deep leading off the fifth. Gregor Blanco had an RBI double.
Brandon Crawford added an RBI single in the fourth for the Giants, who concluded a 7-3 homestand. San Francisco won a home series against the NL East for the first time since April last year.
Sandoval’s two-out drive in the third cleared the elevated right-field arcade and found the water in McCovey Cove, setting off a kayaking commotion in a frenzy to retrieve the souvenir ball.
“Any time Pablo’s got a smile on his face it’s hard for the whole team not to jump on that energy and feed off it,” Lincecum said.
It was the 63rd splash homer by the Giants — home run king Barry Bonds has 35 — seventh by Kung Fu Panda and second for San Francisco this year. There have been 89 in the 14-season history of AT&T Park, including one by the Braves’ Brian McCann on Friday night.
“My wife asked me to hit a home run into the water for her for Mother’s Day,” Braves starter Kris Medlen joked. “I must have misunderstood her, and gave up a home run that went into the water.”
In just his third quality start in eight outings, Lincecum allowed a season-low two hits after being tagged for 19 over his previous two appearances. Giants closer Sergio Romo, San Francisco’s fourth reliever, allowed an RBI double to pinch-hitter Evan Gattis for Atlanta’s lone run.
Lincecum said he chatted with the other starters after his last outing about getting back on track collectively as a rotation.
“It’s just kind of one of those things, we kick each other in the (rear end),’” he said after a 111-pitch performance. “It’s just, here we go, this is the start of something hopefully good.”
The NL West-leading Giants make a quick, two-game stop starting Tuesday in Toronto, where former San Francisco outfielder Melky Cabrera will receive his World Series ring for contributions last season before his 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test. San Francisco then heads to Coors Field in Denver for four games against the Rockies.
“It’s not going to be easy travel for these guys,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We get into Colorado late, but that’s part of the schedule.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez rejoined his team after two days away to attend his daughter Gigi’s college graduation in Georgia. But Atlanta lost its third straight since taking the opener Thursday night — outscored 23-4 over the final three games.
“We haven’t been real fun to watch right now,” Gonzalez said. “What did we score, four runs the past couple games? They have a good club and any time we made a mistake they took advantage. We didn’t get much of anything going until the end when we scored a run.”
The Braves continue their 10-game trip at Arizona, where left fielder Justin Upton will face his former Diamondbacks teammates.
Medlen (1-5) lost his fourth straight decision and saw his winless stretch reach six outings since his lone victory his first time out this year, April 4 against the Phillies.
The right-hander allowed five runs, three earned, walked a season-high five and struck out one in 5 1-3 innings.
Umpires went to a replay review after Scutaro’s fly ball in the sixth was interfered with by a fan, preventing a possible catch by Upton. It was ruled a double, giving Scutaro six straight multihit games during his 12-game hitting streak.