Braves topped by Giants, 6-3
By JANIE McCAULEY,
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Tim Lincecum faced many a rainy outing growing up in Seattle. Not so for slugger Pablo Sandoval in his native Venezuela.
Both had huge days despite downright nasty conditions.
“I like it,” Sandoval said with a grin. “I keep myself warm and don’t get tired too quick.”
Lincecum struck out 10 and overcame an early home run, Sandoval hit a two-run shot and the San Francisco Giants beat the Atlanta Braves 6-3 on Sunday night in a game that finally started after a rain delay of 4 hours, 9 minutes.
“I’ve dealt with things like this before in school,” Lincecum said.
Cleanup hitter Aubrey Huff and No. 5 man Mark DeRosa, the Giants’ two biggest offensive additions this winter, and Bengie Molina all hit RBI singles. Huff also scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on rookie right fielder Jason Heyward’s misguided throw for his first career error.
Heyward hit a solo homer in the ninth.
Lincecum (2-0), the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, recorded his 20th career game with 10 or more strikeouts. He struck out the side in order in the seventh to finish an impressive 108-pitch performance that was made more challenging by having to wait around for hours on the chilly, windy spring day in the Bay Area.
Lincecum even got in a 30-minute nap as he waited for his 2010 home debut. He blew on his hands to stay warm between innings.
“The kid’s won two Cy Youngs, so nothing surprises you when he does something out there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The clouds burst with rain again as soon as the game ended.
Jeremy Affeldt allowed Heyward’s third homer before earning his first save since Sept. 19, 2006, against San Francisco while with the Colorado Rockies. The left-hander tossed two innings, striking out Matt Diaz to end the 2-hour, 20-minute game just in time.
“It’s an epic moment when you get strike three and then it downpours like that,” Affeldt said.
Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami (0-1) retired the first 11 San Francisco batters before Sandoval’s two-out triple in the fourth.
“He was as good as I’ve ever seen him. He can’t pitch better than that,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Brian McCann hit a monster two-run homer in the first off Lincecum to put Atlanta ahead early, only to later be topped by Sandoval’s drive.
Watching Sandoval’s hit made Lincecum feel a little better about giving up McCann’s clout.
“Those two were crushed,” Bochy said. “I don’t know if a hurricane would have held those two up.”
Lincecum went all of last season without allowing a homer at home in AT&T Park, and this was his first in the waterfront ballpark since Colorado’s Seth Smith connected on Sept. 23, 2008.
Lincecum gave up five hits and two runs in seven innings, walking one.
“He’s the best pitcher in the game,” McCann said. “It was almost like he changed to another gear after the home run. His changeup is close to unhittable.”
Lincecum, a two-time All-Star, has often been clutch when he takes the mound after a loss, and he helped San Francisco bounce back from its first defeat of the season. The Giants lost 7-2 on Saturday night after winning their first four games.
Sandoval connected for his first homer of the year with an eighth-inning shot against the wind that sailed over the right-field arcade and onto the walkway on the other side.
A heavy rain began in the morning and didn’t let up until late afternoon, when a small window of good weather developed and the sides agreed to play in spite of a soggy outfield.
The tarp was removed to cheers nearly 3 hours after the scheduled first pitch of 1:05 p.m. local time.
While a pregame ceremony had been planned for the reunion of the Giants’ 2000 NL West championship team, the players were long gone by the time the game began – some to catch flights home – so most fans never saw them.
NOTES: Atlanta’s Chipper Jones, nursing back spasms and a strained oblique from Thursday night, took grounders Saturday and then hit in the cage Sunday. He said he hopes to return to the lineup Wednesday. … Fans stood up and hollered in delight when the sun made an appearance before the start of the bottom of the second. … A rainbow appeared beyond the right-field foul pole in the third. … Announced attendance was 38,062, though there were a lot of empty seats by the end of the night.
Updated April 11, 2010