- Tim Lincecum has two tough acts to follow when he opens the Giants’ three-game series in Philadelphia on Friday night.
One was his own stellar outing at home Saturday, when he struck out 11 Astros over eight shutout innings. The other was the performance of his rotation mates in a three-game series at Turner Field, which ended Thursday with Tim Hudson out-slinging Madison Bumgarner in a 3-2 Braves victory.
Though the Giants failed to complete what would have been their first sweep in Atlanta in 24 years, they did capture only their second series in 18 tries at Turner Field.
The Giants are a pitching-first team, so the three starters who faced the Braves made an important statement after the 1-5 trip before the break. The staff ERA in those six games was 7.43.
Lincecum was the only Giant to start twice on the trip and was knocked out in the fourth inning each time, surrendering 13 earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in two losses.
He rebounded with a gem against Houston, then looked ahead to the Phillies and said, “It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you’ve done lately.”
Lincecum does not have to be his Cy Youngness at Citizens Bank Park. If he merely pitches competitively (if the game is played at all amid a bad-weather forecast) he can argue that he has turned a corner.
He expressed satisfaction with his hot-weather bullpen session in Atlanta three days ago.
“I made a point of throwing more pitches just to get a feel for what it’s going to be like in this heat, just to acclimate a little better,” Lincecum said.
On top of that, it helped with his conditioning.
“Everything felt fine. It wasn’t like I was going in there thinking about what I have to do to make my mechanics work.”
The Giants would be thrilled if Lincecum mimicked Bumgarner’s start against the Braves. The lefty allowed an unearned run after a Pablo Sandoval error, plus solo homers by Freddie Freeman and David Ross.
That was enough to pin a sixth loss on Bumgarner, because the Giants’ run machine from Tuesday and Wednesday ran out of fuel. They outhit the Braves 9-3 but stranded eight runners.
They scored on a second-inning single by Emmanuel Burriss, his first RBI since May and first on a hit since April, and made it a one-run game when Melky Cabrera hit a leadoff triple in the eighth and scored on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly.
Craig Kimbrel buzzed through his three hitters in the ninth for the save, and the Giants’ five-game win streak was over. They were the last team in the majors to lose after the All-Star break.
The Giants tried to look at the bright side, the rare series win at Turner Field.
“You take it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s what you try to do, win series. It’s hard to get a sweep, especially against a tough team like Atlanta. You look at the silver lining.”
Posey also termed it “a good series” but saw the dark cloud within the silver lining.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You feel when you get as good a performance as we got from Bumgarner, you want to win those games.”