Lincecum leads Giants to 2-1 win over Rockies
DENVER – The Colorado Rockies ran into the real Tim Lincecum, the one who won the last two NL CY Young awards.
The San Francisco right-hander showed up and shut down the Rockies, possibly slamming the door on their postseason hopes as well.
Lincecum threw eight stellar innings, Pat Burrell hit a two-run homer and the Giants retained their slim lead in the NL West with a 2-1 win over the faltering Rockies on Friday night.
Lincecum did his best to ensure the Giants stayed on top in the division. Their lead remained a half-game over San Diego, which beat Cincinnati 4-3 on Friday night.
“This is Timmy – the way he pitched tonight and the way he’s been throwing the ball,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s an incredible talent. When he’s on top of his game, he’s going to be tough. That’s why he’s won two Cy Youngs. We all have our bumps in the road, but he’s back to what he is and pitching like we’ve seen the last couple of years.”
The reeling Rockies needed Lincecum to be off his game, desperately hoping for a three-game sweep.
Instead, Colorado dropped its fifth straight and fell five games behind the Giants in the division and four games behind in third place in the wild card with nine games remaining.
“The chances aren’t great, but you never know what could happen,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.
Lincecum (15-10) had electric stuff from the start, retiring the first 15 batters.
Any thoughts of a no-hitter?
“No. I never think about that,” he said. “Once you start thinking about that you give up a hit, and it’s probably going to be to the pitcher.”
He allowed his only two hits of the game in the sixth – and neither to the pitcher.
Seth Smith hit a bloop double that landed just inside the chalk in shallow left and Eric Young Jr. followed with a two-out RBI single to right, the only run the Rockies would manage off him.
This was Lincecum of old, the version that sawed off bats and handcuffed hitters in becoming just one of four hurlers to win the NL Cy Young in consecutive seasons.
It certainly was nothing like the Lincecum of last month, who dropped a career-worst five straight games.
“I had a pretty good rhythm going,” he said nonchalantly. “I was throwing pitches where I needed to. Ground balls, a lot of fly balls and hard outs, that tells me I had my stuff going today.”
Lincecum was unhittable outside of the sixth inning, throwing in the low 90s well into the game. He finished with nine strikeouts, moving his total to a league-leading 229.
“That guy was spectacular,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “Best game we’ve seen him pitch all year.”
Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 45th save. He got pinch-hitter Jason Giambi to ground out to end a game that took just 2 hours, 21 minutes.
San Francisco pitchers have gone 18 straight games giving up three or fewer runs. It’s the longest streak since the Chicago White Sox set the record with 20 straight in 1917, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Rookie Jhoulys Chacin (9-10) was matching Lincecum most of the game, giving up three hits and two runs in seven innings before being pulled after 120 pitches.
With both pitchers throwing well, it was a game where hits were scarce. The teams combined for just five hits.
It was Burrell who came up with the biggest.
After Chacin walked Buster Posey to begin the seventh, Burrell hit a hanging slider deep into the bleachers in left.
“He struck me out with a curveball. The next at-bat I was just looking for something out over the plate,” Burrell explained. “Fortunately, I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Ubaldo Jimenez may be the team’s ace and NL Cy Young contender, but Chacin has been just as stellar since he was inserted back into the rotation on Aug. 17, going 4-2 with a 1.98 ERA.
Chacin got the first six hitters to start the game, four on strikeouts. He finished the night with eight strikeouts.
“He throws hard enough where you have to respect the fastball,” Burrell said.
The Rockies will face Barry Zito and Matt Cain over the next two days in almost must-win situations. The team is trying to recapture the form that helped them win 10 straight earlier this month and climb back into the race.
After a disastrous 2-4 road swing, though, they’re teetering on the brink.
“There’s still a chance,” Tulowitzki said.
Notes: Giants OF Andres Torres, who had an appendectomy on Sept. 12, entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning. He flied out in the ninth. … Tracy said there was “no chance” of Jimenez pitching on short rest. … Rockies 3B Melvin Mora was replaced in the fourth due to an illness.