Lincecum sharper, but skid reaches seven

Lincecum sharper, but skid reaches seven

DENVER -- You know a ballclub's in trouble when players remark, "There's a lot of season left."

Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and first baseman/outfielder Aubrey Huff chanted that same mantra independently of each other Friday night, attempting to minimize the effect of the malaise that grips the Giants -- while hoping that the team's fortunes will dramatically improve in the remaining half-season.

San Francisco's losing streak grew to seven with a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Friday. The Giants haven't lost that many games in a row since they dropped eight consecutive from June 13-22, 2007 -- Tim Lincecum's rookie season.

Recently considered serious contenders in the National League West, the Giants have lost nine of their last 10 games and 11 of their previous 14. They're teetering one game above .500 (40-39) and face the prospect of losing their fifth series in a row if they can't beat Colorado on Saturday. Given that the Rockies' starting pitcher will be Ubaldo Jimenez (14-1), the Giants would be a long-shot in Las Vegas.

But Huff, whose pair of home runs accounted for the Giants' scoring, boldly awaited the challenge.

"We [face] a tough pitcher tomorrow. Just come out and let it all hang out," Huff urged. "He's one of the best pitchers. Let's go have some fun. I've seen crazier things in this game. When you're really down and out and you face a guy like this, you never know what might happen. This could be the exact guy we need to get out of it."

Huff had a point. The Giants might as well face the NL's most successful pitcher, because they've done so little against everybody else since they began slumping. San Francisco has been outscored 38-15 while hitting .209 (47-for-225) during its losing streak.

Without Huff's slugging, the Giants would have been shut out. He's batting .462 (12-for-26) with four home runs against Colorado this season.

"Quite frankly, we haven't done a very good job, period, of figuring out Aubrey Huff," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He's done significant offensive damage against us. When we make mistakes or we don't get the ball to where we're trying to get it to, we end up paying for it virtually every single time."

Though Lincecum (8-4) surrendered four runs and nine hits in six innings, manager Bruce Bochy lamented the dormant offense.

"[Lincecum] pitched well enough to win this game," Bochy said. "I know he gave up four runs, but we have to get out of [scoring] one, two or three runs."

That was the inescapable consensus among the Giants.

"We're not putting any pressure on anybody," Huff said after rookie Jhoulys Chacin (5-7) beat the Giants for the second time in two starts against them. "[Opposing pitchers] are going to nibble and make you swing at bad pitches. We're not getting any rallies going."

In fact, Chacin and three relievers combined to retire the final 10 batters. Between Huff's homers, a two-run drive in the first inning and a two-out clout in the sixth, Chacin retired 15 of 17 Giants.

That wasn't much support for Lincecum, who improved significantly from his previous outing on Sunday, when he matched a career-worst by working just three innings against Boston. Braving the game-time temperature of 87 degrees, Lincecum defied his reputation for wilting in hot weather. He maintained his velocity, reaching 95 mph with his fastball in the first inning and still hitting 93 mph in the sixth.

Lincecum's most egregious mistake was a first-pitch slider he dangled for Clint Barmes, who crushed it for a two-run homer in the second inning that tied the score. Lincecum's other shortcoming was his inability to retire leadoff hitters. They reached base safely against him in every inning but one, forcing him to work far too hard. He stranded eight baserunners, including four in scoring position, but Colorado inevitably inched ahead.

Dexter Fowler scored after tripling to christen the Rockies' fifth, and after Huff's second homer forged a 3-3 tie, Ian Stewart doubled to open Colorado's sixth. One out later, Lincecum lost his command, walking pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe and Fowler to load the bases and set up Jonathan Herrera's sacrifice fly.

"They had good swings," Lincecum said of the Rockies, "putting runners in scoring position, doing what they need to do. They just played good ball."

By contrast, Lincecum said that the Giants remain uptight to do what comes naturally.

"We have to cut that tension that we have going on in the locker room right now, just relax and play the game that we all know we're here for," he said. "There's a lot of pressing for us right now just because we have to get out of that hole."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.