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Lincecum’s gem is what the Giants ordered

San Francisco's Tim Lincecum pitches against San Diego in the first inning of the Giants' 8-4 victory over the Padres on Wednesday. AP photo

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April 6, 2011 | Leave Comment

SAN DIEGO — All the San Francisco Giants really needed was a big dose of The Freak.

Tim Lincecum struck out 13 and held the San Diego Padres to one run and three hits in seven innings to lead the defending World Series champions to just their second win in six games, 8-4 on Wednesday night.

“Everybody kind of relaxed and just kind of went back to playing ball the right way, with a positive mentality,” Lincecum said.

Perhaps as impressive as his 13 strikeouts — two shy of his career high — was that Lincecum didn’t walk a batter. He was handed a 3-0 lead in the first inning, then struck out the first four batters he faced.

He credited that to “having good rhythm, and sometimes I get out of that, and that’s when I fall into trouble. But I made sure everything was working right. I kind of used every one of my pitches, so that was good. I just tried to attack the zone as much as possible.”

Lincecum left with an 8-1 lead after seven. Closer Brian Wilson, activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, pitched the ninth in a non-save situation, allowing three runs on two infield singles and a walk.

The Padres made it interesting in the ninth. After Jeremy Affeldt relieved Wilson, Chase Headley hit a two-run double over center fielder Andres Torres’ head. Ramon Ramirez came on with the bases loaded and two outs and got Rob Johnson to fly out to center, earning his first save of the season.

Lincecum struck out 10 or more for the 27th time, tying Jason Schmidt for the second-most by a Giants pitcher since 1900. Christy Mathewson did it 28 times. Lincecum, the NL strikeout leader the last three seasons, has done it four times against the Padres, all at Petco Park.

Baffling the Padres with sliders, splitters and fastballs, The Freak struck out every San Diego regular except Nick Hundley, who hit a solo homer into the second deck in left field with one out in the third, his first. Lincecum struck out Brad Hawpe three times.

“He certainly pitched great (Wednesday),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s a special talent, this kid, and he showed it again (Wednesday).”

Lincecum (1-1) was the hard-luck loser in the season-opener last Thursday night at Los Angeles, when he allowed an unearned run in a 2-1 defeat.

“You could tell he was on from the outset,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “He had all his weapons (Wednesday).”

Orlando Hudson agreed.

“When he’s like that, he’s tough,” said Hudson, who doubled off Lincecum and struck out once. “He had stuff hopping. It just makes it awfully tough to hit when he’s on that that with all his pitches.”

The Giants’ 3-4-5 hitters, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, had three hits apiece. Posey hit a two-run homer and a two-run single, while Huff had a pair of run-scoring doubles and an RBI single.

The Giants gave Lincecum a 3-0 lead in the first. Freddy Sanchez hit a one-out triple to right-center and Huff brought him in with a double to right. Posey followed with his first homer of the season, to left on a 3-1 pitch from Tim Stauffer (0-1).

The Giants chased Stauffer in the fifth, two batters after he allowed Huff’s RBI double to left-center. San Francisco batted around in the sixth and added four runs against San Diego’s bullpen. Huff hit a bases-loaded infield single, Posey followed with a two-run single to right and Sandoval’s RBI hit to right.

Stauffer allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings, walked two and struck out one.

“I just didn’t feel real sharp overall,” Stauffer said. “I battled a bit. But the first inning, getting down like that against a good pitcher like Lincecum, is a little bit of an uphill battle for us. Overall, not what I was looking to do.”

Notes: Lincecum is 6-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 14 career starts against San Diego. … The Giants are off Thursday, then play their home opener Friday afternoon against St. Louis. … Padres lefty reliever Joe Thatcher, on the DL with a strained left shoulder, had a setback and won’t pick up a ball for the next four or five days. … Padres ace Mat Latos, on the DL with a sore right shoulder, threw a bullpen. He’s expected to rejoin the rotation for a series against Cincinnati that starts Monday night.

The Associated Press

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