Lincecum leads Giants past Braves

Published 7:42 pm Wednesday, August 6, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – Aaron Rowand says any talk about the National League Cy Young Award should begin and end with San Francisco teammate Tim Lincecum.

“All you have to do is take a look at his numbers,” the Giants’ center fielder said. “With the exception of one, maybe two starts, all season long he’s been dominating. You talk to guys on the other team that have to face him and all of them are pretty impressed with the way that he’s developed, not only with his pitches but his maturity and learning how to pitch. He’s not a thrower.”

Lincecum proved that on a day he didn’t have his best stuff.

San Francisco’s hard-throwing right-hander pitched eight innings for his first win in more than three weeks, Rowand homered and drove in three runs and the Giants beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 on Wednesday.

Lincecum allowed five hits and struck out eight to earn his first win since July 13 and only his second in his past six starts. In his three previous outings, the San Francisco ace had a loss and two no-decisions.

“I felt like this outing wasn’t that bad. We got the win and that was the biggest part,” Lincecum said. “But that’s just way too many walks for me, especially when I’m talking about trying to be efficient with my pitches. Those are going to kill you.”

At 12-3, Lincecum will likely get a long look from the Cy Young voters. He leads the majors with 175 strikeouts, is second in the NL with a 2.69 ERA and improved to 11-2 in 19 starts this season following a Giants’ loss.

“It’s still early, we’ve got a lot of baseball left, but at this point he’s throwing the ball as well as anybody in the game,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “There’s no question he’s going to get real strong (Cy Young) consideration.”

Lincecum was effective but far from dominant, walking four while pitching with runners on base in every inning but two. But after giving up an RBI groundout to Mark Kotsay in the sixth, the 24-year-old starter didn’t allow a runner past second base and struck out the side in the eighth to finish his afternoon.

He benefited from a four-pitch third inning and got some help from the Giants defense. Left fielder Fred Lewis threw out Casey Kotchman at the plate to end the first after Kotchman walked and took second. Omar Infante then lined a sharp single off Lincecum but the throw home from Lewis beat Kotchman by several feet.

“(Lincecum’s) got some of the best stuff in the game, if not the best,” said Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, who had three of the Braves’ five hits. “He’s throwing a changeup that acts as a split. It’s like 88 mph. If he’s got that going, he’s tough to hit.”

Randy Winn added four hits including the 1,500th of his career and scored twice for the Giants, who won for the fourth time in six games after going 4-8 following the All-Star break.

Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 32nd save in 34 chances.

San Francisco did all of its damage early against Atlanta’s Chuck James (2-5), who was making his second start since being called up from the minors last week.

Rowand’s homer to left-center was his 10th of the season and made the Giants the last team this season to have a player reach double digits in home runs. Rowand drove in another run in the second with a sacrifice fly off James to make it 3-0.

Atlanta scored its runs on Yunel Escobar’s RBI groundout in the fifth and Kotsay’s groundout in the sixth. But the Braves couldn’t get their offense going and had only three hits over the final eight innings.

“You’ve got to score,” manager Bobby Cox said. “It’s hard to score in this ballpark and not only that, it’s hard to score with their pitchers, so you’ve got to take advantage of everything you can get.”

Notes: Wilson has converted 23 consecutive save opportunities, the fifth-longest streak in San Francisco history. … Braves RHP Tim Hudson’s season-ending elbow surgery is scheduled for Friday. … San Francisco signed third baseman Conor Gillaspie, the 37th player selected in the 2008 draft.