SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum again reached uncharted territory Monday night. But instead of sauntering on a yellow brick road, he encountered quicksand.
Lincecum followed his magnificent July 13 no-hitter at San Diego with the worst start of his career, at least statistically. He surrendered a career-high eight earned runs and matched a personal mark for futility by yielding three home runs as the Cincinnati Reds dominated the Giants, 11-0.
The Giants rarely got thrashed this badly by the Big Red Machine in the 1970s. In the teams' four meetings this year, Cincinnati has outscored San Francisco 25-3. Reds pitchers have held the Giants to a .120 batting average (14-for-117).
And just think -- the Giants have to confront the Reds twice Tuesday.
"Honestly, it's a little bit embarrassing," said Giants first baseman Brandon Belt of Cincinnati's spell over San Francisco, though his remarks could have applied to the team's struggles in general. "It's something we have to change right now and go out and win a couple of ballgames and we'll be right back in it."
Lincecum (5-10) was supposed to be the antidote to another mismatch. But the right-hander departed after allowing nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. By then, he already had dusted off some dubious history.
Lincecum allowed eight runs on July 3, 2012, in a 9-3 defeat at Washington, but one of them was unearned. He permitted three homers on two other occasions: Aug. 29, 2011, in a 7-0 loss to Chicago and last Sept. 30 at San Diego in a 7-5 Giants triumph.
As always, Lincecum patiently answered every reporter's question. Asked what he didn't accomplish against the Reds that he was able to do against the Padres, he replied, "I think repeating." He meant his delivery, which is essential for any pitcher.
He acknowledged feeling normal before the game and denied that the extended rest provided by the All-Star break affected him. And he remained confident that he can sustain second-half improvement despite this game, which hiked his ERA from 4.26 to 4.73.
"It was just a little bump [in the road]," Lincecum said.
The AT&T Park crowd gave Lincecum a warm ovation when his name was announced in pregame introductions. From that juncture, his fans steadily lowered their expectations until their enthusiasm completely evaporated. That didn't take too long.
Wild dreams of a second straight no-hitter for Lincecum ended when Shin-Soo Choo doubled to open the game. The ball barely eluded onrushing left fielder Gregor Blanco.
Fantasies of a shutout vanished with two outs in the first inning as Todd Frazier lined a bases-loaded double over center fielder Andres Torres to generate three runs.
Hopes for a Giants victory became far-fetched when the Reds began launching long balls off Lincecum. Devin Mesoraco and Choo went deep in the second inning before Jay Bruce found the right-field seats in the third.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy still identified a turning point in Lincecum's evening: Derrick Robinson's first-inning sacrifice-bunt try, which San Francisco handled deliberately. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval finally pounced on the ball after several Giants surrounded it, but Robinson beat his throw to first. That, Bochy said, forced Lincecum to throw extra pitches -- his first-inning total reached 31 -- and his performance unraveled from there.
"It's hard to measure, whether it was the nine days since he last pitched or the Reds hitters," Bochy said. "But if he gets out of the first inning, it's a different ballgame."
Lincecum needed just one out to escape with a scoreless inning when Frazier connected with a 1-0 pitch.
"He was so close to getting out of the first. I'm sure that was deflating for him," Bochy said.
Lincecum sounded subdued as he addressed his confrontation with Frazier.
"I could have made a better pitch to him. Or I could have gone to a different pitch," Lincecum said. "But, fastball down the middle, he crushed it."
"Give them credit," Bochy said of the Reds. "They swung the bats. They didn't miss any mistakes."
"He got some balls up in the zone," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Lincecum. "When he was down, he had guys fishing for them. He can pitch, but we got to him early, mostly on fastballs."
Meanwhile, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (9-7) didn't allow a runner past first base for six innings en route to his sixth career shutout.
"There's no method to his madness out there," Belt said. "Whatever he needs to do to keep you off balance, he does a good job of it. We went up there with an approach, but it didn't work out for us once we got in there. ... He might take advantage of our aggressiveness a little bit."
Pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur nearly ended Arroyo's shutout with the game's final swing. Francoeur launched a tall ball to center field, where Robinson leaped over the wall, batted the ball to himself with his glove, kept it in play and caught it.
"He could have at least dropped it," Francoeur said good-naturedly.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.