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Lincecum's two-hit, 14-K performance stifles Braves

CBSSports.com wire reports
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The last time the San Francisco Giants were in the playoffs, muscle-bound slugger Barry Bonds was the face of the franchise. Now, it's the skinny, shaggy-haired pitcher full of quirks.

The Freak really showed up on his biggest stage yet.

Tim Lincecum pitched a two-hitter and struck out 14 in a dominating postseason debut, and the Giants scored their only run after a questionable umpiring call to beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in Game 1 of their NL Division Series Thursday night.

"As far shutouts go, I think that was up there with my better ones," said Lincecum, who pitched on seven days' rest. "I was pretty anxious to get out there a couple days ago. You just have to deal with those extra days."

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The two-time NL Cy Young winner pitched a gem, a day after Philadelphia's Roy Halladay threw only the second no-hitter in postseason history in his first playoff game. Lincecum outdueled playoff veteran Derek Lowe and caught a break, too.

Cody Ross singled in the only run Lincecum needed in the fourth after Buster Posey was called safe by umpire Paul Emmel on a steal of second.

"I guess it's a good thing we don't have instant replay right now," Posey said. "It was a beautiful slide, wasn't it?"

It was the first career steal for Posey, even though he appeared to be tagged out by Brooks Conrad on the play -- retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox, the all-time leader in ejections, did not argue.

"I haven't seen it," Cox said. "Some of the guys came down after that inning and said he was out by six, eight inches. From the dugout you can't see anything."

Said Emmel: "I saw him safe. That's what I called."

Lincecum struck out Derrek Lee for the third time to end the 119-pitch masterpiece in 2 hours, 26 minutes. He became just the 12th pitcher with 14 or more strikeouts in a postseason game.

This is the pitcher with the unorthodox delivery who doesn't ice his arm, munches on treats like Philly cheesesteaks or ice cream before starts and is trailed around the clubhouse by his friendly French bulldog, Cy -- named for Cy Young.

"That's one of the best efforts I've ever seen," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "What a great job that kid did. He's tough."

In a postseason already filled with plenty of stellar pitching, this was the first 1-0 game in the postseason since 2005, when the Chicago White Sox finished off a World Series sweep over Houston.

Game 2 of this best-of-5 series is Friday night, with 13-game winner Matt Cain going for the Giants against Tommy Hanson.

Lincecum's only other complete game this season came in a six-hit shutout of the New York Mets on July 15. He threw all his pitches effectively, from his off-speed stuff that darted down into the dirt to his power fastball that he blew past hitters high in the zone.

"It kind of progressed as it did. All the pitches were working," Lincecum said. "It just felt like things were in place."

Lincecum carried the momentum from a strong final month right into October. His strikeouts set a franchise record for a postseason game - his eighth time with 10 or more Ks this year and 27th of his career.

"He was lights out," Cox said. "We had two runners at second base all night and that's it."

Lowe, who won his last five regular-season starts with a 1.17 ERA over that stretch, allowed one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, struck out six and walked four.

Lincecum, still hitting 91 mph on the radar gun in the ninth, became the first pitcher to record 12 strikeouts or more in the playoffs since Roger Clemens had 15 for the New York Yankees against Seattle in the 2000 AL championship series.

Lowe was done after giving up Posey's double and a walk in the sixth. That delighted the orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,936 at AT&T Park, which drew the largest attendance for a postseason game in the ballpark's 11-year history.

Ross delivered in the fourth after Lowe intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval. Ross is one of a handful of late acquisitions to contribute to the Giants' first NL West title and playoff berth since 2003.

Making his playoff debut at age 26 and in his third full major league season, Lincecum looked every bit an ace. He was sharp throughout, walking only one. This is the same pitcher whose career-worst five-start losing streak began with a defeat Aug. 5 at Atlanta.

"He struggled so much in August," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "To be able to do what he's done is a testament to the kid. It was the first time he's really struggled and he came back and manned up."

Lincecum has returned to his Cy Young form after that rare rough patch. He has a 1.60 ERA since Sept. 1, going 6-1 with 66 strikeouts.

"At the time guys were telling me you're going to go through your struggles," Lincecum said. "It almost kind of feels it was that far back there, I try not to go back there and think about that mental slide."

Lincecum allowed a leadoff double to Omar Infante to start the game, then retired the next nine Braves batters in order before Jason Heyward drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. The stretch included five straight swinging strikeouts in the heart of Atlanta's order.

It was a tough night for a Braves team playing without injured All-Star infielder Martin Prado, who sustained a season-ending torn oblique muscle and hip pointer Sept. 27. That was a big blow considering he batted .307 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI.

Posey had two hits and also shined in his first playoff game, which featured the Giants catcher and Atlanta outfielder Heyward -- the two leading candidates for NL Rookie of the Year.

Ross started in right field for the Giants, who left Jose Guillen off the playoff roster because his injured neck isn't 100 percent.

Notes

  • Braves RHP Takashi Saito, sidelined with shoulder soreness since mid-September and not on the playoff roster, is scheduled to pitch Saturday at instructional league to stay sharp.
  • The Giants left struggling $126 million lefty Barry Zito off the roster.
  • 1B Huff ended a stretch of 1,479 games without a playoff appearance -- third longest among active players. He went 1 for 3 with a walk.
  • The only larger crowd at AT&T Park was for the 2007 All-Star game (43,965).
  • Atlanta went 13-20 away from Turner Field after the All-Star break.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Players of the Game
San Francisco

T. Lincecum
IP 9.0
H 2
ER 0
BB 1
K 14
San Francisco

B. Posey
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
 

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Atlanta Braves
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Omar Infante, 3B4010000 .250
Jason Heyward, RF3000121 .000
Derrek Lee, 1B4000032 .000
Brian McCann, C3010012 .333
Alex Gonzalez, SS3000012 .000
Matt Diaz, LF3000011 .000
Brooks Conrad, 2B3000020 .000
Rick Ankiel, CF3000010 .000
Derek Lowe, P2000020 .000
    Jonny Venters, P0000000 .000
   a- Eric Hinske, PH1000010 .000
    Peter Moylan, P0000000 .000
    Mike Dunn, P0000000 .000
    Craig Kimbrel, P0000000 .000
Totals29020114  
a-struck out for Venters in the 8th
Batting
2B - Omar Infante (1, Lincecum), Brian McCann (1, Lincecum)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Conrad-A. Gonzalez-Lee, A. Gonzalez-Conrad-Lee
E - Rick Ankiel (1, Misplayed grounder), Brooks Conrad (1, Misplayed grounder(Play went 1-5-2-5-3))
Atlanta Braves
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Derek Lowe (L,0-1) 5.1411460 1.69
Jonny Venters 1.2000020 0.00
Peter Moylan 0.1000000 0.00
Mike Dunn0100000 0.00
Craig Kimbrel 0.2000010 0.00
IBB - Sandoval by Derek Lowe
Pitches-Strikes - Derek Lowe 96-53, Jonny Venters 13-9, Peter Moylan 2-2, Mike Dunn 5-3, Craig Kimbrel 6-4
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Derek Lowe 9-1, Jonny Venters 2-0, Peter Moylan 1-0
Batters Faced - Derek Lowe 24, Jonny Venters 4, Peter Moylan 1, Mike Dunn 1, Craig Kimbrel 1
San Francisco Giants
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Andres Torres, CF4010010 .250
Freddy Sanchez, 2B4000002 .000
Aubrey Huff, 1B3010112 .333
Buster Posey, C4120011 .500
Pat Burrell, LF3000021 .000
    Nate Schierholtz, RF0000000 .000
Juan Uribe, SS2000111 .000
Pablo Sandoval, 3B2000111 .000
Cody Ross, RF-LF2011100 .500
Tim Lincecum, P2000022 .000
Totals2615149  
Batting
2B - Buster Posey (1, Lowe)
SH - Tim Lincecum (1)
RBI - Cody Ross (1)
2-OUT RBI - Cody Ross (1)
SB - Buster Posey (1, 2nd base off Lowe/McCann)
CS - Aubrey Huff (1, 2nd base by Kimbrel/McCann)
Team LOB - 6
San Francisco Giants
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Tim Lincecum (W,1-0) 92001140 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Tim Lincecum 119-75
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tim Lincecum 4-9
Batters Faced - Tim Lincecum 30
Game Information
Attendance - 43936
Game Time - 2:26
Temperature - 61
Umpires - Home - Dana DeMuth, First Base - Paul Nauert, Second Base - Paul Emmel, Third Base - Mike Winters