Giants overcome Lincecum’s struggles to win opener
April 8, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO ” Although Tim Lincecum readily acknowledged he was mostly awful in his first opening-day start, he left the ballpark excited about what happened.
For just about the first time since the NL Cy Young Award winner became a full-time major leaguer, he didn’t have to be outstanding for the San Francisco Giants to win.
Travis Ishikawa hit a three-run triple, Aaron Rowand had three RBIs and the Giants overcame Lincecum’s struggles for a 10-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday in the majors’ final opener.
Lincecum walked leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks on five pitches right after heroic pilot Chesley Sullenberger threw out the first pitch, and the 24-year-old right-hander’s day got no better. He made it through just three innings, yielding three runs, four hits and three walks in a scattered performance that included five strikeouts, but not much more to embrace.
“When you’re a Cy Young winner, there’s going to be a target on your back,” said Lincecum, who will formally receive his award in front of the home crowd Wednesday night. “Milwaukee was trying to get aggressive, and they’ve got a good power team. They probably wanted to do as many things as they could to me.”
Last season, Lincecum would have expected such a sorry performance to result in certain defeat for the Giants, who finished 29th among the majors’ 30 teams with 637 runs last season, their first following Barry Bonds’ departure.
Recommended Stories For You
At least for openers, the Giants’ new-look lineup had enough pop to cover for their young ace’s struggles. Rowand hit a two-run homer and an RBI double. Bengie Molina and Randy Winn also homered for the Giants, who had six extra-base hits.
“Those guys played really good baseball offensively,” Lincecum said. “They were putting a lot of good swings on good pitches. It’s going to be great to see them develop and score runs this year.”
Joe Martinez (1-0) gave up two runs during two rocky innings in his major league debut, but still got the win when Rowand put the Giants ahead 6-5 with his two-run shot in the fourth. Molina added a solo shot in the seventh, and Winn led off the eighth with another homer.
With an all-new infield featuring three young prospects and veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria, Molina thinks the sport’s perception of the Giants’ lineup is about to change.
“This is a great example of what we can do,” Molina said. “When whoever goes out there and gives up a hit or some runs, it feels good to pick them up.”
Milwaukee also didn’t get much from Jeff Suppan (0-1), who hit an RBI double but gave up six runs in four innings as the unlikely opening-day starter for a club that lost its top two pitchers from last season’s run to the NL wild card. Weeks and Bill Hall hit run-scoring doubles in manager Ken Macha’s debut with the Brewers, who left 11 men on base.
“That wasn’t very pretty,” Macha said. “By my count, there were 13 walks and four hit batters. We had 20 baserunners and only got five runs. If you told me we’d get Lincecum out of the game in the third, I’d be feeling pretty good. We just didn’t pitch very well.”
Rain pelted the Giants’ waterfront ballpark for most of the morning, but it abated before game time and eventually gave way to warm sunshine, despite bleak weather forecasts. Both managers had made contingency plans for a doubleheader Wednesday, when Randy Johnson will make his Giants debut against burgeoning Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.
After walking Weeks to start the Giants’ 10th opening day at their park, Lincecum also drilled Ryan Braun in the back and threw a wild pitch in the first inning alone, but struck out Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy to avoid giving up any runs.
Ishikawa, who won the starting job at first base in spring training despite just 45 games of major league experience, lined a shot into the deepest corner of the Giants’ outfield in the bottom half, easily reaching third base while Renteria, Fred Lewis and Pablo Sandoval scored.
“They were really swinging the bats today,” said Brewers outfielder Mike Cameron, who drew four walks and stole two bases. “We were swinging pretty good, too, but we lost a couple of opportunities to keep it close. We knocked (Lincecum) out of the game, but we couldn’t push any runs across against anybody else. When we threatened to score, they turned a couple of double plays.”
After Martinez relieved Lincecum, Weeks tied it when he scored on Lewis’ overthrow from left field after Corey Hart’s single. Fielder then put the Brewers up 5-4 with an RBI single.
Rowand gave the Giants the lead again with his homer to left, scoring Ishikawa. Rowand hit just 13 homers in 152 games with San Francisco last season, slumping after the break.
Notes: San Francisco’s win ended a six-game losing streak against Milwaukee. … The San Francisco crowd gave a standing ovation to Sullenberger, who lives in the East Bay town of Danville. He also threw out the first pitch at the second exhibition at the new Yankee Stadium earlier this month. … None of Lincecum’s starts last season was shorter than four innings. … Martinez, a 26-year-old New Jersey native, and Ishikawa are the Giants’ only rookies. San Francisco used 24 rookies last season, tied with San Diego for the majors’ most.