SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum has regained his strength and dominant form after a bout of bronchitis back in spring training that slowed him down for a while.
Lincecum pitched eight sharp innings to win for the first time in four starts, and the San Francisco Giants beat the Atlanta Braves 4-0 on Tuesday night."It takes some people longer to get ready for a season," he said. "I feel like I'm kind of getting into that zone right now. Things are coming easier. Mechanics are easier. I'm not thinking too much out there."Aaron Rowand hit a two-run double in the second and Edgar Renteria singled in two runs moments later to stake Lincecum to an early lead that held up. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner looked just like the dominant pitcher he was in 2008, striking out eight and walking two.Lincecum (4-1) threw a season-high 122 pitches and won for the first time since beating the Cubs on May 5 at Chicago. He was coming off three straight no-decisions, but quickly found his groove. He struck out eight or more for the fourth straight start and the seventh time in his last eight outings."Anytime you can get a lead with him on the mound you feel pretty good," Rowand said.Bob Howry pitched a perfect ninth to finish the five-hit shutout for the Giants, who won back-to-back games for the first time since a three-game winning streak from May 10-12. It was San Francisco's sixth shutout and the fifth time the Braves have been blanked this year.Starting with pitcher Kris Medlen's strikeout to end the second, Lincecum retired 14 of 15 batters. He allowed only a one-out walk to Garret Anderson in the fourth before Jeff Francoeur's seventh-inning single."When you get a lead like that, you don't want to let them nitpick," Lincecum said. "You want to keep pounding them into the ground."Medlen (0-2) dug himself a quick hole in his second big league start. After coming in with a 15.00 ERA following a 9-0 loss in his major league debut May 21, Medlen had one costly inning this time. After Lincecum drew a two-out walk in the second to load the bases, Medlen received a mound visit from pitching coach Roger McDowell. Rowand then doubled and Renteria followed with his single.Medlen allowed four runs on four hits, struck out three and walked two as the Braves lost their second straight to start their seven-game trip out West after a weekend interleague sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. That still leaves 24th-year Braves manager Bobby Cox five wins shy of 2,000 with Atlanta.Cox knew the Braves would have a tough time fighting back against Lincecum."You don't need to get behind that many runs early," Cox said. "It's tough to catch up with him. He's not going to give you but a couple. He's tough. He's got all the pitches in the world and they're good."Reigning NL batting champion Chipper Jones returned to the Braves' lineup for his first start since injuring his right big toe Thursday night.Jones ran before the game to show Cox he was ready, then doubled in his first-inning at-bat. That was the only extra-base hit allowed by Lincecum, who threw 122 or more pitches for the sixth time in his career."He's back on track," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Braves placed RHP Buddy Carlyle on the 15-day disabled list with an upper back strain and activated righty Jorge Campillo from the DL. Campillo missed 35 games with rotator cuff tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. ... Atlanta RHP Tim Hudson threw off a mound for the first time since spring training -- a significant step in his recovery from elbow ligament replacement surgery last year. Hudson was scheduled to throw again Wednesday, 20 pitches at 50 percent effort level. ... The Giants activated OF Andres Torres from the DL following a rehab stint and optioned 1B Jesus Guzman to Triple-A Fresno. Torres was placed on the DL on April 28 with a strained left hamstring. RHP Sergio Romo is expected to be activated from the DL on Friday and will throw a simulated game Wednesday. Romo started the season on the disabled list with a right shoulder sprain.