Lincecum shines in return, baffles Rockies

Giants manager Bruce Bochy was a little nervous about his ace pitcher. Tim Lincecum put him at ease.

Lincecum pitched seven strong innings in his return from a balky back, Eugenio Velez drove in four runs and the San Francisco Giants gained ground in the NL wild-card race with a 9-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.

“We kept checking up on him,” Bochy said. “I was a little anxious to see him out there. After the first inning I could tell he was fine.”

Bengie Molina homered and scored three runs and Aaron Rowand drove in two for the Giants, who moved within 3 1/2 games of Colorado for the wild card. Juan Uribe and Fred Lewis also drove in runs for San Francisco.

Lincecum, who missed his previous turn with back spasms, threw 116 pitches and had only one clean inning. The 2008 NL Cy Young Award winner stranded nine runners.

“It was fun to win a game like that,” Lincecum said. “I was erratic at times but I was able to come back and make quality pitches.”

Carlos Gonzalez and Yorvit Torrealba each had two hits for the Rockies, who lost their third straight.

Lincecum (14-5) gave up a run and six hits, lowering his NL-leading ERA to 2.30. He walked four and struck out 11 for a league-best 244. He’s won his last six decisions at home and is 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA in San Francisco.

“I got a break for all the wrong reasons,” Lincecum said. “But it helped me take a step back and have a look at what I was doing and what I needed to be doing.”

Jason Hammel (8-8) allowed four runs and seven hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out five. The Rockies have lost all four of his starts against the Giants this season despite his 3.52 ERA against them.

“We set the stage for them in the second inning,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “And when you’re facing a guy like Tim Lincecum you can’t give the other team extra outs. Every run is precious.”

Molina, Uribe, Travis Ishikawa and Rowand each singled to open the second, with Rowand driving in two runs. Velez followed with a sacrifice fly.

“Lincecum is good. You spot him four runs and he’s probably going to take it home,” Hammel said. “As for the second inning, they hit them where we weren’t basically. I have no other way of explaining it.”

Molina’s 18th home run, a solo shot with two outs in the third, and Uribe’s RBI single in the eighth made it 5-1.

Despite having runners in scoring position in six of seven innings against Lincecum, the Rockies managed to cross the plate once. Gonzalez tripled ahead of a wild pitch in the seventh.

“His changeup was filthy tonight,” Tracy said. “There’s no getting around that.”

The Giants added five runs in the eighth, including a bases-loaded triple by Velez. Uribe singled home a run and Rockies reliever Joel Peralta walked pinch-hitter Fred Lewis on four pitches to force home another.

Jeremy Affeldt pitched the eighth for San Francisco and Bob Howry the ninth.


Rockies INF Clint Barmes is a combined 3 for 42 against the three scheduled Giants starters this series. … Rockies‘ RHP Huston Street played long toss on Sunday and will be throwing off a mound soon, according to manager Jim Tracy. … Giants INF Edgar Renteria was given an extra day of rest for “general soreness,” said manager Bruce Bochy. … With Lincecum back in the rotation, LHP Madison Bumgarner will be used out of the bullpen. … Torrealba has a 10-game hitting streak against the Giants and is hitting .464 (13 for 28) against them this season. … The last time Molina scored three runs in a game was on Aug. 18, 2005, when he was with the Los Angeles Angels against the Boston Red Sox.