Tim Lincecum received a rare boost from the Giants bats and it propelled him to a win against the hottest pitcher in baseball.
The Giants offense tagged Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano for four first inning-runs on Saturday, giving Lincecum all the support he needed in a 6-3 win at AT&T Park.
“We haven’t done that in a while,” Manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to the Giants first-inning onslaught. “Especially here at home.”
Liriano (14-6) is leading Major League Baseball with 14 wins since May 11 and he entered the game ranked fourth in the National League in ERA and strikeouts over that span. But the Giants handed the lefty his sixth loss by getting to him early, scoring four runs on five hits and a walk.
Marco Scutaro ignited the hit parade with a two-strike single up the middle and Joaquin Arias moved him over to third by kicking up chalk with a double down the right-field line.
Buster Posey picked up the Giants' third straight hit by driving in Scutaro with a broken-bat single to left, only his fifth RBI in his last 30 games. Posey went 3-for-5 on the night, grabbing his first three-hit game since the All-Star break.
Brett Pill put the Giants ahead 2-0 later in the inning, scoring Arias with an infield single to third and then Sandoval brought in Posey with a soft ground out to second.
Gregor Blanco capped off the four-run rally by driving in Pill with a two-out single to left, matching the team’s best opening-inning output of the season. The Giants are now 44-14 when they score at least four runs.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Bochy said, referring to Liriano. “You’d expect this to be a low-scoring game, particularly with the way he’s throwing the ball. We had some good fortune there in the first inning.”
In Lincecum’s previous 17 starts, the Giants had struggled to provide run support, scoring an average of 2.42 runs per outing. In 11 of those appearances, the bats had scored one run or less.
“It made a big difference in the game,” Lincecum said, referring to the run support. “You tack those runs on, you know you can relax and not have to be so fine with your pitches.”
After a 20-pitch first inning, Lincecum returned to the mound in the second and struck out the side. He retired eight straight Pirates hitters before opening the fourth with back-to-back walks.
Bochy said he noticed an extra skip in Lincecum’s hop after the offense piled the runs on Liriano in the first.
“It’s a little bit easier to have some cushion to work with,” he said. “You’re not thinking that every pitch might determine the game.”
The Pirates jumped on the board in the fifth when catcher Tony Sanchez drilled his first career home run deep into the left field bleachers. After the Giants added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning, the Pirates knocked Lincecum out of the game in the sixth by putting runners on second and third with one out.
Lincecum (7-13) allowed three earned runs on three hits in 5-1/3 innings of work. He walked off the mound to a standing ovation.
“They happen to have a knack for making their players feel loved here and I’ve known that for years,” Lincecum said.
The former Cy Young-award winner said the fans will be on his mind when he steps into free agency later this winter.
“That will definitely play into my decision when that time comes,” he said.
The bullpen failed to pick up Lincecum once he left the game, though. First, Garrett Jones singled up the middle on Jose Mijares’ second pitch, scoring Andrew McCutchen; then Sanchez hit a line drive to center on Jean Machi’s second pitch, scoring Pedro Alvarez.
The Giants eventually escaped the inning with runners on first and second after Machi struck out Lambo and Sandoval back-handed a hot shot down the third base line, throwing out Clint Barmes with a one-hop laser to Posey at first.
The bullpen was sharp the rest of the way with six pitchers combining to work the final 3-2/3 innings without allowing a run.
The Giants added a sixth run in the sixth when Sandoval scored Hunter Pence with a two-out single.