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Lincecum strong early as Giants muscle up

Lincecum strong early as Giants muscle up

PHOENIX -- Six of the seven TVs in Chase Field's visiting clubhouse -- including the flat screen in manager Bruce Bochy's office -- were tuned to the Padres-Dodgers' late Tuesday night game.

The Giants lineup had just slugged three home runs. Tim Lincecum had already pitched well. Now they were all waiting to see what it got them.

On the surface, nothing. But below, perhaps much more.

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Lincecum pitched six great innings and a poor seventh -- leading many to believe the mini-ace has made his mini-comeback -- and his San Francisco teammates mashed their way to their sixth straight win at Chase Field, a 6-3 victory over the D-backs.

The Padres winning, 2-1, over Los Angeles, leaving San Francisco a full game back in the National League West race, didn't quite quell the excitement over Lincecum.

"Every playoff team has that guy," said first baseman Aubrey Huff, whose first-inning dinger produced two runs. "It's a good time [for him] to get going and carrying us the rest of the way."

"He was electric," added second baseman Freddy Sanchez, whose opposite-field solo shot arrived in the fifth.

Just off his career-worst five-game losing streak, Lincecum (13-9) now has back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly two months. Against the Rockies last week and the D-backs this week, he has pitched 14 2/3 innings, yielded just four runs on 10 hits and fanned 20.

"These last two outings," he said, "it's been about getting back to myself and working from there.

"That's my mindset right now, just putting the whole rest of the season behind me and focusing on now and the [coming] days."

Lincecum retired the first 13 D-backs he faced -- first baseman Huff, ridiculed for his defense, helped out with a base-knock-saving play in the fourth -- until Miguel Montero's single in the fifth. Arizona failed to advance a runner past first base, however, until the seventh. That's when the wheels came off.

Kelly Johnson (triple) and Chris Young (two-run homer) re-proved Lincecum's humanity and halted the Giants pitching staff's scoreless streak at 31 innings, the longest span, according to STATS Inc., since the 1964 men in orange and black went as many frames without giving up a run.

"The fastball to Young was supposed to be down and away," Lincecum lamented, "and I left it up."

Lincecum struck out two of the next three batters he faced -- his 10th and 11th victims of the game -- before Tony Abreu (triple) plated Montero (single). That brought Bochy out to the mound for the second time in the inning and, that time, he took the baseball from his ace.

"He got some balls up there in that last inning," Bochy said, "but without question that was quite a job he did there. That's the Timmy that we know."

"Don't be fooled by the fact that he's not throwing 96 mph any more," added D-backs interim skipper Kirk Gibson. "He gets all his pitches over, he knows how to pitch."

Lefty specialist Javier Lopez helped Lincecum escape his shaky seventh and tossed the eighth, too, before giving way to Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt, who tag-teamed the ninth. Affeldt picked up a two-pitch save by inducing a ground-ball double play to end the game. Closer Brian Wilson, who had pitched in the last three consecutive days, was warming in the 'pen.

The three Giants relievers weren't just protecting Lincecum's lead, but also the lineup that had provided it.

Both Sanchez and Huff used the word "aggressive" to describe their plan against Arizona starter Barry Enright, who had limited the Giants in two previous starts this summer. And that mindset showed. All three of San Francisco's homers -- Huff's in the first, Sanchez's in the fifth and Pat Burrell's in the sixth, Enright's final frame -- came on a first pitch.

"This is a good hitting club, and they swung the bats well tonight," Bochy said. "That makes life a little bit easier for the pitcher, for all us."

Especially in the midst of a pennant race.

Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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