MIAMI -- Tim Lincecum outran his season-long shortcomings before they finally caught up with him in Friday night's sixth inning, when the Marlins scored five runs and hung on for a 7-6 victory over the Giants.This outing could prompt considerable debate among the spectrum of Lincecumologists, including those who worry he's finished as an effective pitcher and those who believe that he can recapture his greatness. Skeptics will point to Lincecum's lingering vulnerability to the big inning. He has surrendered three runs or more in an inning seven times this season. He also issued four walks, having entered the game tied for third in the National League in that category. Lincecum even developed a new lapse. He allowed two home runs, marking the first time he had surrendered a dinger since the first inning of his Opening Day start in Arizona. There was no shame in yielding Giancarlo Stanton's fourth-inning homer, since the Marlins right fielder ranks among the league's most feared sluggers. But the three-run homer that Chris Coghlan struck to highlight Miami's big sixth stung the Giants. It was the first home run this season for Coghlan, who was batting .104 (5-for-48) at the time. Yet Lincecum's many boosters had reason to keep the faith. He regained a semblance of command with his fastball and sustained its velocity, topping out at 94 mph and reaching 93 as late as the fifth inning, according to the Marlins Park scoreboard readings.
"It wasn't a conscious effort," Lincecum said of his fastball's revival. "But Buster [Posey] kept putting [the fastball sign] down."Unlike his multiple first-inning blowups and his previous start last Sunday, when he disappeared after Oakland roughed him up for four runs, Lincecum at least flirted with durability this time. Moreover, one inning before the Marlins chased him, Lincecum escaped the type of jam that typically finished him, as he struck out Jose Reyes with runners on second and third to conclude the fifth inning. But in professional sports, the bottom line is the bottom line. The Giants have lost eight of Lincecum's 10 starts, a shocking ratio for the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner who has inspired euphoric confidence among teammates and fans alike through virtually his entire San Francisco tenure. The five runs he allowed in the sixth equaled the most the righty had given up in one inning in his career.
The Giants nearly gave Lincecum (2-5) a reprieve by scoring twice in the ninth and bringing the winning run to the plate with two outs in the form of Melky Cabrera, baseball's hottest hitter. But Cabrera, who homered and tripled in his previous two at-bats, watched Steve Cishek's 3-2 slider dart past him for strike three."The guy made some quality pitches and won that battle," Cabrera said of Cishek, who replaced ineffective Marlins closer Heath Bell. "I couldn't pick [the third strike] up." Though first base was open -- Gregor Blanco was on second -- Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen had no intention of walking Cabrera. "I ain't walking the go-ahead run. I don't care what people say," Guillen said. "All of a sudden you walk the go-ahead run, [on] a ball in the gap he will score to win. You hit a home run, good for you. I mean, what's the chance? You got more of a chance to hit the ball in the gap. The guy behind him is not Ozzie Guillen. That guy behind him [Posey] can hit the ball out of the park and can hit the ball in the gap." Thus, the postgame spotlight fell squarely on Lincecum. The Giants know that something must change, which might be why manager Bruce Bochy, Lincecum and head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner met for close to 15 minutes after the game. Since Lincecum apparently remains healthy, between-starts conditioning was a likely topic of discussion. "Hopefully we can turn the page on these 10 starts and start in on these next 23," Lincecum said. Concentration, Lincecum insisted, isn't an issue.
"I don't think I was losing focus," he said. "I was locked in from the first pitch to the last pitch."Posey seconded Lincecum.
"He was as locked in as good as I've seen him," Posey said. "Even in innings when he struggled, you saw good body language the whole time."For five innings, Lincecum allowed just two hits and nursed a 3-1 lead. Then Miami exposed the weaknesses that have plagued him all season. Omar Infante doubled to open the Marlins' sixth. Lincecum struck out Hanley Ramirez before Stanton lashed an RBI single. Logan Morrison drew a walk and Bryan Petersen singled to load the bases. That set up John Buck's sacrifice fly, which tied the score. Coghlan then drove an 0-1 curveball into the right-field stands, completing the reversal of fortune.
"He reverted back to what happened in previous games," Bochy said, referring to Lincecum's troubles with men on base."Until then, he did a good job of keeping the curveball down," Posey said of Lincecum, who also surrendered Stanton's homer on a curve. Earlier, the Giants peppered Marlins starter Josh Johnson for seven hits in the first three innings, but scored just twice. Joaquin Arias' double-play grounder muted their second-inning uprising, and Brandon Crawford was thrown out attempting to advance from first base to third on Angel Pagan's two-out RBI single in the third. "We killed ourselves," Bochy said, referring to his club's mistakes on the basepaths. "We were awful tonight. The errors in baserunning came back to haunt us, as they should."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.