Mariners spoil Lincecum's homecoming

Mariners spoil Lincecum's homecoming

Mariners spoil Lincecum's homecoming
SEATTLE -- Tim Lincecum pounded his glove with his right fist in satisfaction. He had struck out Justin Smoak to end the fourth inning, preserving the Giants' two-run lead. One more inning, and Lincecum would have a real chance of making his homecoming a triumphant one.

Lincecum pounded his glove again a little later. This time the gesture was one of disgust. Ichiro Suzuki's comebacker eluded Lincecum and went for an infield hit, driving in a critical fifth-inning run for Seattle.

Those scenes defined the extremes of Lincecum's performance, which lasted five-plus innings once he yielded Jesus Montero's single to open the sixth. The Mariners proceeded to score three runs, pinning a 7-4 Interleague loss on Lincecum and the Giants.

Lincecum's confounding slide continued in his city of residence and native state, where he pitched for the first time as a professional.

"There wasn't any extra nervousness or anxiety or anything like that. It just felt like another game," he said.

It developed like another game, too, in this tortured season of Lincecum's. He retired 10 of 11 batters, striking out five, from the end of the first inning through the fourth. But a pair of two-run outbursts bracketed that stretch. Casper Wells and Montero homered off Lincecum in the first inning before Ichiro contributed to Seattle's fifth-inning uprising.

"Similar to a lot of other games," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Lincecum's outing. "What can go wrong went wrong. ... It's hard to explain, because he is so good at times. Then he has his hiccup innings."

Lincecum disappeared after Montero singled to open the Mariners' three-run sixth inning that hastened the end of their six-game losing streak. That also sealed Lincecum's career-high sixth losing decision in a row. His record dropped to 2-8 and his ERA grew to 6.19.

The Giants are 2-12 when Lincecum starts, having lost in his last nine appearances. By contrast, the Giants are undefeated in the last 16 games -- eight apiece -- pitched by Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong, their other right-handed starters. The law of averages, as well as common sense, dictates that Cain and Vogelsong won't go unbeaten the rest of the year. Thus it's essential to the Giants' postseason hopes for Lincecum to regain a semblance of his characteristic form.

Bochy wasn't asked whether Lincecum would skip a start to address his flaws, which against Seattle involved pitching from the stretch position with runners on base. But Lincecum indicated that he would argue to stay in the rotation if the Giants asked him to take a step back.

"I want to pitch every fifth day," Lincecum said. "I want that ball."

Lincecum briefly moved in position to win as the Giants scored twice in the third and fourth innings to inch ahead, 4-2. Ryan Theriot contributed an RBI single to each outburst.

Then came the fifth, which is often a critical inning for struggling starters who know they must complete it to qualify for a victory.

Losing the command he possessed during the previous three innings, Lincecum yielded Dustin Ackley's leadoff single and walked John Jaso on four pitches. Brendan Ryan's sacrifice bunt set up Ichiro's single, a grounder up the middle that Lincecum nearly gloved.

"I felt like I could have gotten out of that inning if I just catch the ball that was right to me," Lincecum said.

Theriot dove to smother the ball and prevent Jaso from scoring the tying run. But that happened anyway as Lincecum short-hopped a 1-2 delivery to Wells for a wild pitch.

Seattle manager Eric Wedge attributed Lincecum's woes less to the right-hander's vulnerability and more to some rare stout hitting by the Mariners, who entered the game batting .197 at home.

"Obviously he's a great pitcher and it's easy to see why, as free and easy as he is," Wedge said. "... I thought we did a good job of squaring up some fastballs [and] laying off some tough changeups as well, which I think made a difference for us."

Lincecum ran to the mound for the sixth inning, but executed a U-turn after Montero's first-pitch single prompted Jeremy Affeldt to enter the game. One out after Michael Saunders singled, Ackley hit a slow grounder up the middle. Shortstop Brandon Crawford fielded the ball and took a couple of steps toward Saunders, then realized he couldn't make the tag and threw to first base. By then, Ackley was safe, loading the bases.

Pinch-hitter Franklin Gutierrez smacked a grounder behind third base. Joaquin Arias tried to backhand it, but it caromed off the heel of his glove for an infield hit, scoring Montero. Ryan, who entered the game batting .156, singled cleanly to deliver Saunders and Ackley.

"We got the ground balls we were looking for," Bochy said. "We just couldn't get outs."

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.