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SF@OAK: Lincecum strike out eight over six innings

In eight career starts against the Astros, the Giants' Tim Lincecum has been electric, going 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA.

Expecting another Lincecum gem against the Astros on Saturday might've been reasonable in the last few seasons, but not in 2012, when Lincecum has struggled mightily. The right-hander will try to bounce back from two rough starts on the road and rediscover what made him one of baseball's best pitchers for the last four seasons.

Against the Nationals on July 3, Lincecum went 3 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits. On July 8 in Pittsburgh, Lincecum gave up six runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings, lasting only 64 pitches, his lowest pitch count of the season.

"You never want to say, 'Hey, I've hit rock bottom' or anything like that," Lincecum said after his last start. "When things are going as bad as they are right now, you kind of got to go out there feeling like you've got nothing left to lose.

"It's been terrible. It's a terrible feeling, feeling like you've let your team down. That's the hardest thing."

Former Giant Mark DeRosa, now with the Nationals, is confident that Lincecum can find a groove.

"I wouldn't bet against him," DeRosa said. "He's the type of guy who can string together eight, nine, 10 wins in a row in the second half. They're basically in first place without him getting hot for them yet. If he does, what a boost for them."

The Astros counter with right-hander Lucas Harrell, who leads the league in innings pitched by a rookie. He gave up five runs in five innings against the Pirates in his last start on July 3.

Manager Brad Mills said he thought Harrell wore himself out on the bases in the game after reaching following a pair of sacrifice bunts.

"The first time, he was on base all the way the whole inning after the sacrifice bunt turned into a base hit. The second time, he was on base the whole inning and then he wound up scoring," Mills said after the start. "Definitely, on a warm evening like this, there's no doubt that took its toll on him."

With the team moving to a six-man rotation entering the All-Star break, Harrell didn't make his next scheduled start. He threw a shutout against the Padres on June 27.

Giants: Casilla's blister has been an issue
The blister on Santiago Casilla's middle finger has improved, but manager Bruce Bochy said before Friday's game that the blister affected Casilla's pitch location more than the pitcher let on.

"It's such a fine line when you're making a quality pitch that if you have a little something going on with your finger, especially your [middle] finger, which plays a major role in your delivery and command, that'll play a part in you missing some spots," Bochy said.

On July 5, Casilla recorded his fourth blown save in a 6-5 loss to the Nationals. Three of his blown saves have come in his last five appearances out of the bullpen.

He struck out the final two batters for his 22nd save on Friday. On the season, Casilla is 2-4 with a 2.78 ERA.

Astros: Platoon situation for first base
With Carlos Lee a member of the Miami Marlins, manager Brad Mills said Friday that the Astros will platoon Matt Downs and Scott Moore at first base.

Downs will be in the lineup against lefties, as he was against Madison Bumgarner on Friday. Moore will start against righties, as Lincecum is.

Both players aren't regular first basemen, but Mills is confident that Downs and Moore can handle the position.

In 2012, Downs is batting .140 in 50 at-bats against left-handers. Moore is batting .324 in 34 at-bats against righties. Downs was 0-for-2 with a walk against Bumgarner on Friday.

Worth noting
• This is the first time that the Astros have had two scheduled series in San Francisco in one season since 1999.

• The Astros are 9-33 on the road. They started a 10-game road trip against National League West foes on Friday. Comments