Lincecum shuts down Astros as Giants win opener
HOUSTON – Tim Lincecum wasn’t very good in his first opening day start a year ago.
Things were certainly different for San Francisco’s two-time National League Cy Young winner in his second.
Lincecum continued his mastery of the Houston Astros, pitching seven scoreless innings as the Giants beat the Houston Astros 5-2 Monday night.
Lincecum (1-0) allowed four hits and struck out seven with no walks to shut down a Houston offense that opened the season with star slugger Lance Berkman on the disabled list. The performance lowered his ERA to 1.37 in six career starts against the Astros.
In last season’s opener he lasted just three innings and gave up three runs and four hits with three walks.
He was a bit more relaxed on Monday.
“It wasn’t that uncontrollable hype-ed-ness where I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I kind of had an idea what was going on. Obviously, opening day can be a little overwhelming, a little bit more exciting than a usual game. I try not to let that overwhelm me. I really tried to treat it like a regular game.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy thinks starting last year’s opener helped him on Monday.
“He was his normal self,” Bochy said. “He looked relaxed, but excited about going out there. I didn’t notice anything different. Now he’s pitched some openers, and you draw on that experience.”
The Giants got a boost from new left fielder Mark DeRosa, who scored in San Francisco’s three-run second inning and added a solo homer in the eighth.
Houston starter Roy Oswalt (0-1) allowed seven hits and three runs in six innings as he extended his team record to eight straight opening day starts.
Sergio Romo allowed two hits in a scoreless eighth inning. Houston finally got on the board in the ninth when Carlos Lee singled and scored on a ground out by Pedro Feliz. J.R. Towles followed with an RBI double off Brandon Medders.
Brian Wilson came in for the last two outs and the save.
Lincecum retired the first five batters before Feliz singled in the second. Lincecum didn’t allow another hit until a single by Lee with two outs in the fourth, before retiring Geoff Blum to end the inning.
About the only thing that slowed Lincecum was the mud that got stuck in his cleats with one out in the fifth. He walked off the mound and motioned to the umpire before a Giants trainer came out and handed him something, which he used to dig the chunks of mud out from in between the spikes.
He then returned to the mound and quickly retired the next two batters.
Houston’s Michael Bourn got his first career hit against Lincecum with bullet single the pitcher had to duck to with one out in the sixth inning. Bourn was 0 for 10 against Lincecum before the hit.
Kaz Matsui gave Houston consecutive hits for the first time in the game with his single to right field. But Lincecum retired Hunter Pence and Lee to end the inning.
He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, striking out Feliz and Towles.
Houston’s first-year manager Brad Mills raved about Lincecum.
“He has great stuff and he really made some pitches on us when he needed to,” Mills said. “With him, you want to slow the game down as much as you can, but with the way the game is now, you really can’t do that.”
The performance improved his record to 34-2 in 55 starts when the Giants score at least three runs.
“He had all his pitches, good command, didn’t walk anybody,” Bochy said. “He did a terrific job out there. Great way to start the season. He gave us what we needed.”
Bengie Molina hit an RBI single in the second and John Bowker’s run-scoring single pushed the lead to 2-0 and sent pitching coach Brad Arnsberg to the mound for a chat with Oswalt. Juan Uribe added one last run with his sacrifice fly to right field that scored Molina.
“In the second inning, I got out of sync a little bit,” Oswalt said. “But I fell back in after that. I think I did OK. If you take one inning out of the performance tonight, I think it was all right. Once I got to the third, fourth and fifth, I felt a little better, mechanical-wise.”
The Giants pushed their lead to 4-0 with Edgar Renteria’s RBI double in the seventh inning off Chris Sampson.
Oswalt allowed a single in each inning he pitched after the second and was helped in the third and fifth innings when Houston turned double plays.
NOTES: Former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara had front-row seats behind home plate. The Bushes, who have a home in Houston, often attend sporting events in the area. Barbara Bush was recently hospitalized after a mild relapse of Graves disease, a thyroid condition. … Tommy Manzella became the first rookie to start for the Astros on opening day since 2005 when he started at shortstop on Monday.
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