Tim Lincecum threw his 167-pound body in front of the plate to save a run. He pounded the strike zone like the Lincecum of old. More than anything, he pitched the San Francisco Giants into first place while winning again at last.
The Freak’s funk is over — for now anyway.
Lincecum won for the first time in nearly two months to end the worst drought of his career, and the Giants held the Dodgers scoreless for the third straight game in a 3-0 win Wednesday.
Back in the clubhouse once his day was done, he joked with strength and conditioning coach Carl Kochan.
”I was like, ‘Winning,’ and he goes, ‘It’s a lot better than losing,”’ Lincecum said. ”That’s the easiest way to put it. … To be able to sweep the Dodgers, throw three shutouts and be in the position we’re in says a lot about us.”
Angel Pagan added an RBI single and drew a bases-loaded walk to back Lincecum (3-8) as the Giants moved into a tie with Los Angeles for first place in the NL West by getting just their second sweep of the season. It was the first time in franchise history they shut out the Dodgers in a three-game series, a run spanning 123 seasons.
Lincecum struck out eight and walked two while outpitching Chad Billingsley (4-7). The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner ended a career-long 10-start winless stretch in which he went a career-worst 0-6.
His victory came one day shy of two months after his last win, April 28 against San Diego.
Lincecum got focused, and he just plain got mad about his poor pitching. This outstanding outing helped the Giants take a division lead for the first time since last Aug. 9.
Facing a depleted Dodgers lineup didn’t hurt. Already missing All-Star Matt Kemp, the Dodgers lost Andre Ethier after one at-bat to a left oblique injury that could land him on the disabled list.
”But getting shut out three days in a row hurts a lot more than this,” said Ethier, scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.
Lincecum struck out two in a 1-2-3 second, and calmly punched his pitching hand into his glove as he walked off the mound. He had gone 0-4 in his previous six starts against the Dodgers since his last victory on July 30, 2010.
The Dodgers were swept in the Bay Area for the second time in as many weeks after losing three straight at Oakland from June 19-21, scoring two total runs over the six games here.
”It’s been a long nine days,” catcher A.J. Ellis said.
Melky Cabrera had an RBI double and Brandon Crawford tripled among his three hits in San Francisco’s first three-game sweep of the Dodgers at AT&T Park since July 30-Aug. 1, 2010.
Pitching to cheers of ”Come on, Timmy!” Lincecum also made a run-saving play that drew a standing ovation in the third.
After Billingsley doubled off the wall in center for his sixth hit in 25 at-bats this season, he moved to third on a wild pitch. Lincecum threw another wild pitch that got past catcher Hector Sanchez and reached the backstop. The pitcher covered home, blocked the plate and tagged out Billingsley. His glove was knocked loose, but Lincecum held onto it and made the play with his left hand.
”It’s funny how the ugly thing kind of worked out to a pretty cool thing,” Lincecum said. ”I didn’t want him to get a run. I’m not much to go through but he was going to have to go through me to get to the plate.”
Lincecum allowed only one more runner past first. Sergio Romo recorded the final four outs for his fourth save in as many tries.
Lincecum came to the plate to roars from the sellout crowd of 42,245 in the third and hit a one-out single down the left-field line. He scored on Cabrera’s double.
Buster Posey then walked to load the bases and Pagan walked to force home a run, which brought pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to the mound for a visit with Billingsley.
Billingsley lost his third straight start, tagged for three runs and nine hits in six innings.
Lincecum, who settled down Friday at Oakland after falling behind 3-0 in the first inning and showed positive signs the next four, ran his scoreless innings streak to 12.
Manager Bruce Bochy visited Lincecum after a seventh-inning walk to Ellis put runners on first and second with one out, but drew cheers when Lincecum stayed in the game to retire the next two batters.
After Lincecum told Bochy ”Yeah” he was fine to stay in the game, he followed that up with a stronger ”Yes, sir.” It worked.
”He has returned to the Timmy of before,” said Sanchez, catching Lincecum for the second straight start.
Sanchez stayed in the game after landing hard on his left arm, hip and ribs while making a diving catch of a foul popup by Herrera for the first out in the fourth.
Ethier was removed before the bottom of the first after injuring his side muscle on a check swing.
Notes: Giants starting pitchers have allowed one earned run in their last 31 innings. … Juan Uribe, 1-for-21 during the road trip, returned to the Los Angeles lineup and went 0-for-3. … Dodgers 2B Mark Ellis will head on a rehab assignment Saturday to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga if his baserunning goes well Thursday. He’s likely to play four or five games and get 20 at-bats. ”I’m anxious,” Ellis said. ”I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a hit in a rehab game. You just want to get back with the team.” … Wednesday marked the 32nd anniversary of Jerry Reuss’ no-hitter for the Dodgers against the Giants at Candlestick Park. … LHP Madison Bumgarner looks to become the Giants’ first 10-game winner of 2012 when he pitches the series opener Thursday night against Cincinnati and former San Francisco skipper Dusty Baker.