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07/13/08 8:22 PM ET
Lincecum, Wilson slam brakes on skid
Giants' All-Stars combine to top Cubs; starter strikes out nine
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson gave themselves a proper All-Star sendoff Sunday. After Lincecum subdued the Chicago Cubs by striking out nine in eight innings, Wilson survived a typically perilous but effective ninth inning to help the Giants end their six-game losing streak with a 4-2 triumph. The Giants finished the theoretical first half 40-55, better than some observers expected but short of manager Bruce Bochy's expectations. Asked how he would have reacted if told before the season that San Francisco would enter the All-Star break with this mark, Bochy said before the game, "I'd say I'd be disappointed. I still think we're a better club than what our record is." Then the Giants proved Bochy correct, led by their pair of All-Star representatives. Having endured a dull performance in his previous start, a six-inning, four-run effort in New York last Tuesday, Lincecum (11-2) regained his flair. "I felt like I had my legs under me today," he said. "I had everything working in rhythm like I should. That was the key to my having most of my pitches going." Lincecum, who improved to 10-1 with a 2.69 ERA following Giants defeats, struck out at least one batter each inning and blunted each Chicago challenge. He induced Mark DeRosa's popup with two out and two on in the first inning, stranded Ryan Theriot on third base in the third and coaxed Aramis Ramirez's double-play grounder to end the eighth with runners on first and second. Even when Lincecum lapsed in the fourth as Jim Edmonds lashed a one-out RBI double, he recovered by striking out Reed Johnson and coaxing a groundout from Henry Blanco. And with the majority of the paid Wrigley Field crowd of 41,574 roaring for pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome in the eighth with Johnson on first base and two outs, Lincecum ended an 11-pitch standoff by striking out the All-Star outfielder on a 3-2 changeup. "He kept fouling off my curveball, fouling off my slider, fouling off my changeup, everything," Lincecum said. "It seemed like that at-bat went on forever." Of course, the variety of pitches Lincecum cited has been the source of his success, as DeRosa observed. "He doesn't just attack you with heaters and let you get comfortable. He mixes a lot of stuff in there," DeRosa said. "You have to respect his fastball to the point where it makes the other stuff that much better." Lincecum was also integral to the Giants' three-run third inning against another All-Star, Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (10-4). Lincecum lined an RBI triple to right field that skipped under the glove of the onrushing DeRosa and scored along with Fred Lewis on Ray Durham's two-run single. "Looking at my swing, it wasn't very pretty," Lincecum said. "It looked like a backhand in tennis." Despite throwing 116 pitches, Lincecum didn't rule out pitching in the All-Star Game. Tuesday, the night of the game, would be his usual day to throw on the side. "If it ends up happening, it does; if it doesn't, whatever," Lincecum said. Bochy gave Lincecum his blessing, though he said that he'd discuss the matter with Colorado's Clint Hurdle, the NL All-Star manager. "It's an honor to pitch in the All-Star Game," Bochy said. "It's his 'throw' day and I don't think it's an issue." Pitching coach Dave Righetti also gave Lincecum his approval, as long as he remained physically sound (Derrek Lee smashed a third-inning comebacker off the pitcher's right thigh, which could get sore later). "I'd like for him to be able to do it," Righetti said. "But if there's any issue -- finger, leg -- I'd just as soon see him not do it." Inheriting a 4-1 lead, Wilson allowed the Cubs to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate with one out by walking Edmonds and surrendering singles by Johnson and pinch-hitter Geovany Soto, which scored a run. "That's pretty standard by now," Wilson said, poking fun at his reputation for tightrope-walking his way through ninth innings. But Wilson emerged with his 25th save in 27 chances by retiring pinch-hitter Daryle Ward on a called third strike and forcing Theriot to ground out. This earned Wilson a measure of redemption one day after he absorbed the decision in the Giants' 8-7, 11-inning loss Saturday. "I wanted to throw strikes today, and I did, and they hit them. So I decided I'm going to go back to throwing as hard as I can," said Wilson, whose All-Star-break save total matches the third-highest in San Francisco history behind Rod Beck's 29 in 1997 and Robb Nen's 26 in 2001. Nen also had 25 in 1998. Another resurgent Giant was shortstop Omar Vizquel, who interrupted his offensive struggles by singling in his first two at-bats and stealing a base before scoring on Lincecum's triple. Vizquel is still batting only .159, but he refuted an item in the Denver Post, which cited a "simmering buzz" that he might retire during the All-Star break due to his shame over his poor hitting. "I am pretty embarrassed," Vizquel said. But he flatly called the item untrue. "If I ever thought about that, the Giants would be the first ones to know," he said. It was a non-issue, along with virtually everything else as the Giants happily dispersed for the All-Star break.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.