The present seemed anything but promising for the Giants entering this game. Being swept by Florida on Sunday blunted their momentum. They were about to face a D-backs squad that had defeated them in four of five games this season. Arizona starter Dan Haren (5-4) had won his last four decisions against San Francisco.
Then Molina changed the landscape, and broke a scoreless tie with his two-out home run, which followed Fred Lewis' single and Ray Durham's walk. Coupled with Molina's second-inning single, it gave the catcher 17 hits in 25 at-bats since last Tuesday.
"I don't like to think about it," Molina said of his torrid hitting. Indeed, he struck out twice and flied out in his last three plate appearances. "This game is pretty tough. I try to get a good at-bat every single time up there. If it happens [for] me up there, great."
In a reflection of his sizzling streak, Molina was briefly fooled by the 1-2 slider Haren fed him. He was expecting to see a split-fingered fastball, or perhaps a fastball up and in. "He got me a little bit by surprise. I didn't think he was going to throw a slider there," said Molina, whose homer made him 8-for-8 with runners in scoring position (a streak that ended when he fanned with Durham on second base in the fifth).
Molina's home run proved essential, given the Giants' 3-for-16 hitting with runners in scoring position. They did widen their lead to 5-0 on Jose Castillo's monstrous fourth-inning homer to center field and Durham's fifth-inning RBI double.
Lincecum (7-1) did most of the rest. Working with two extra days' rest, he looked typically strong throughout his 7 1/3-inning outing, striking out seven and limiting Arizona to one hit in six at-bats with runners in scoring position. Lincecum said that he pitched with a "sense of urgency" during the scattered threats mounted by the D-backs, who have lost six of their last eight games.
After Aaron Rowand's two-out RBI single gave the Giants a 6-1 lead in the seventh inning, Miguel Montero doubled to open Arizona's half of the seventh, conjuring the possibility that Lincecum might be weakening. The 23-year-old right-hander dispelled that notion by retiring Jeff Salazar on a popup, and coaxing broken-bat grounders from pinch-hitter Alex Romero and Chris Young.
"He's special," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, repeating a familiar sentiment. "He's one of the better pitchers in the game at his age."
Told of Bochy's remark, Lincecum reacted with typical humility: "It'd be something to really be able to be that, but I have a lot to work on," he said.
Not when it comes to ending losing streaks, which might be the quality the Giants appreciate most about Lincecum. They're 6-0 when he starts after a defeat. His personal record in those games is 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA.
"We've gotten big into [the concept of] when guys struggle, you have to pick them up. It's more a team thing," Lincecum said. "I've been getting great run support and great defense behind me to be able to do that."
According to an old baseball joke, the best time for a team to call a pregame meeting is when its ace pitcher is starting that day. Maybe Bochy didn't plan it this way, but Lincecum revealed that the Giants briefly huddled to discuss the importance of "not accepting losses." Facing the NL West leaders, they turned their talk into action.
"Every game for us right now is, like, do or die," said the hyper-intense Molina. "That's the way we have to go at it."