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Last inning gives Lincecum third loss

Last inning gives Lincecum third loss

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SAN FRANCISCO -- During the past few days, manager Bruce Bochy toed a grayish line concerning how he'd use ace pitcher Tim Lincecum in Sunday's start.

The skipper said he'd monitor Lincecum closely and would continue to do so for the rest of the season. But he said if the righty looked OK, he wouldn't hold him to a low pitch count.

That second part became evident in the seventh inning of the Giants' 7-4 loss to the Brewers. After Lincecum threw 107 pitches in the first six innings, Bochy sent him out for more. Judging by the results, he might have been better off staying in the dugout. Ryan Braun took him deep for a three-run shot to left field that ultimately iced the game.

"[Bochy] asked me if I was good to go," Lincecum said. "I said yes. I felt fine; I still felt like I had my stuff. It just didn't turn out that way."

Lincecum hadn't pitched since dominating the Cubs seven days ago. Since then, he's hardly had time to rest. He took a red-eye flight to New York last Sunday to join his fellow All-Stars, participated in the Midsummer Classic festivities Monday, then fell sick Tuesday and had to be taken to the hospital, missing the All-Star Game.

Throwing 121 pitches, one off his career high, probably wasn't the best way to settle into his typical dominating groove.

It didn't help any that home-plate umpire Rob Drake seemed to have an awfully tight strike zone. Lincecum didn't blame the ball-and-strike calls for his losing performance, but he did mention them after the game.

Lincecum walked a pair of batters on 3-2 counts in the fourth inning, and he thought he had Corey Hart struck out in the second before getting touched for a home run. After getting ahead of Hart 0-2, Lincecum threw three balls that could have been called strikes. Hart then pulled the eighth pitch of the at-bat into the left-field seats. Adding insult to injury, before Braun's demoralizing home run, Rickie Weeks reached base on a hit-by-pitch that television replays showed didn't hit him.

"I try to make good quality pitches and they just weren't called," Lincecum said. "That's [Drake's] zone, and he's the one who makes the calls. Whether it's a strike or a ball is up to him."

It was up to Bochy to leave "The Franchise" in the game in the seventh. Despite Lincecum insisting he was fine, the move was surprising on multiple fronts. Lincecum's flu sapped him of his energy earlier in the week; his pitch count was already high and he'd thrown more than 110 pitches in three of his past four games; and having escaped the sixth inning with just a 2-0 deficit, Lincecum could have departed with a solid outing in his wake.

Plus, the Giants called up a fresh reliever from Triple-A Fresno, Geno Espineli, earlier in the day. Bochy mentioned pregame that he'd like to use Espineli immediately, and the seventh inning seemed a perfect opportunity.

"[Lincecum] felt fine," Bochy said. "He threw better as he went. Going into his last inning, he had easy innings. ... It was a 2-0 ballgame and we got our best out there, and we want to keep it that way."

With the loss, the Giants add to their ever-growing list of skids. They've lost nine of their past 10 overall and 21 of their past 26 at AT&T Park, and are winless in nine consecutive homestands.

Just a few weeks after discussing chances of winning the lackluster National League West, San Francisco finds itself eight games out of first and a season-high 18 games under .500.

"[The Brewers] are aggressive on the bases and that's why they are contending," Bochy said. "You have to play your best ball to beat them and we didn't."

In fact, in six chances this year, the Giants are winless against Milwaukee -- the second time in franchise history the club has been swept in a season series of three games or more.

In the final two innings, the Giants bats came alive for four runs. But, as is becoming somewhat typical with this club, it was too little, too late. Aaron Rowand smacked a two-run double to right field in the eighth and Jose Castillo had a two-run double of his own in the ninth. Randy Winn, though, popped out to end the game.

Through the first seven frames, the Giants couldn't get much of anything going against Manny Parra (9-2), who tossed 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball. Lincecum ended with eight strikeouts to extend his NL lead in the category, but he wasn't efficient in the first four innings, in which he threw 91 pitches.

"You don't hear much about [Parra]," Bochy said. "But he is throwing up there, throwing 97, 98 [mph] at times with a good slider and changeup. They pitched well and played well."

David Biderman 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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