Lincecum struggles against aggressive Dodgers

Four-run third inning the difference in Giants' opener at Los Angeles

Lincecum struggles against aggressive Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- The same Tim Lincecum who muzzled Los Angeles' bats last Tuesday at AT&T Park stood on the Dodger Stadium mound. But he didn't face the same Dodgers he silenced in San Francisco.

The Dodgers took a fresh approach against Lincecum, and the results demonstrated the difference. Lincecum, who yielded one run and five hits in six innings against the Dodgers last week, coughed up four runs and eight hits in four innings this time. He yielded all of those runs in the third inning as the Dodgers outdistanced the Giants, 8-3, in the opener of a three-game series.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly summarized the altered strategy of the Dodgers' hiters by saying simply, "We made him get the ball up this time." Lincecum didn't quite see it that way, observing that his pitches missed their intended target from side to side more often than up or down.

However, Lincecum essentially agreed with the Dodgers by saying, "I was missing in the middle of the plate too much. ... They took a little different approach on me and I just didn't counter it as well as I should have."

The Dodgers' mindset became obvious in the third inning, when they amassed as many hits off Lincecum as they gathered in last week's encounter with him.

"They were aggressive on him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Indeed, Adrian Gonzalez, who singled on a 2-2 pitch for the inning's first hit, was the only Dodger with a base hit in the third who came close to running a deep count. Howie Kendrick, Scott Van Slyke and Juan Uribe all singled on the first pitch. Joc Pederson doubled on a 1-1 delivery.

Kendrick's RBI single

"They did a good job of taking what I was giving them," said Lincecum, whose ERA rose from 2.00 to 3.27. "They were hitting the ones that were in [the strike zone] and they were doing a good job of being patient, hitting the balls they wanted to."

Whether Lincecum threw the pitches he truly wanted to is subject to interpretation. Of the 76 pitches he threw, only 28 (36.8 percent) were fastballs. Despite Lincecum's diminished velocity, that just wasn't his typical style. In fact, without diving catches by first baseman Buster Posey in the first inning and right fielder Justin Maxwell in the second, Lincecum's pitching line might have been much worse.

Posey's grab helps turn two

Bochy considered Lincecum's stuff adequate but said his command was "a little bit off" and credited the Dodgers for making their adjustments. So much for past performance: Lincecum, whose scheduled start Sunday at Colorado was rained out, entered this game with a 37-26 record and a 3.16 ERA on five days' rest, one more than usual.

Lincecum wasn't the only Giants pitcher to falter. George Kontos, who entered the game having allowed one hit in 11 at-bats to left-handed batters, surrendered a sixth-inning homer to Pederson. Yusmeiro Petit allowed pinch-hitter Justin Turner's three-run homer in the eighth that put the game out of reach.

"We're a little spoiled by this guy, as well as he's pitched for us," Bochy said of Petit. "He's missed his spots a little more than we're accustomed to."

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.