SAN FRANCISCO -- With the Giants having lost nine of their last 10 games and the Dodgers owning a seven-game winning streak entering Tuesday night's series opener between the longtime rivals, surely an overwhelming force would be necessary to reverse each team's fortunes.
Actually, nothing extraordinary was required for the Giants to engineer a 6-2 victory that, at least temporarily, altered each team's momentum. All it took were the basics: pitching and defense.
Tim Lincecum allowed at least one baserunner in each of his six innings but prompted Los Angeles to hit into four double plays, including one started in spectacular fashion by shortstop Brandon Crawford in the sixth inning. Moreover, Lincecum proved that he remained capable of generating a much-needed strikeout, the kind of feat he once performed with wondrous regularity.
The most notable example of this occurred in the fifth inning, with two outs, a run in and Alex Guerrero on second base. Lincecum struck out Jimmy Rollins on a 3-2 changeup to end the inning and prevent Yasiel Puig, representing the potential tying run, from bringing his menacing presence into the batter's box.
No longer possessing his 95 mph fastball, Lincecum won his challenge against Rollins with sheer guile.
"I tried to give him something I knew he was going to try to swing at," Lincecum said. "I know these people get aggressive off me, and I know I can get erratic at times."
Not this time. And not on this evening overall. Lincecum walked three and threw only 46 strikes in 85 pitches, but he maintained enough control to avoid pitching himself out of the game prematurely, as he has done in recent seasons.
"You pitch with your stuff," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's not about velocity. It's about command and having some pitches to work with. And Timmy has that. He missed some spots at times but kept his poise out there and made pitches when he had to."
Lincecum's sure-handed infielders also contributed.
Crawford provided the highlight by diving to snare Howie Kendrick's sharp grounder up the middle with one out and Puig on first base in the sixth. Lying flat on his stomach, Crawford shoveled the ball from his glove to Joe Panik, who short-hopped his throw to first base with Puig bearing down on him. Buster Posey made a clean grab, which proved essential when the Dodgers requested a replay review that confirmed the out call.
"I was just trying to get to it and keep it in the infield," Crawford said. "Once I got to it, I wasn't going to try to exchange with my hands, so I flipped it to Joe. He made a good turn and Buster made a good pick."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.