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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 21, 2010

MLB: Giants all shook up in 8-7 loss to Diamondbacks

By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News

PHOENIX San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy isn't ready to follow the Tony La Russa guide to baseball tactics. But he took a page out of the book Thursday.

For the first time in anyone's memory, the Giants batted their pitcher eighth in Thursday's lineup.

Bochy had a few notions for putting Tim Lincecum in front of No.9 hitter Andres Torres. Mostly, he wanted to shake things up.

The shaken lineup produced, but the bullpen stirred things up. After the Giants' roaring, five-run sixth inning put a struggling Tim Lincecum in line for a victory, the Arizona Diamondbacks rallied to take an 8-7 win and a two-game sweep at Chase Field.

Dan Runzler and Guillermo Mota couldn't hold a two-run lead in the seventh, and Jeremy Affeldt nearly pitched out of a jam in the eighth before bouncing a 55-foot wild pitch that allowed Conor Jackson to score the tiebreaking run.

Bochy saw everything but the final two pitches. He was ejected by plate umpire Mark Wegner after a called strike to Juan Uribe with the tying run at first base. Uribe swung through the next two pitches, and the umpires turned to argue some more with Uribe and others in the Giants dugout.

It was a fuming end to a frustrating game. The Giants nearly prevented the tiebreaking run from scoring when second baseman Freddy Sanchez made a clean stop and quick transfer on Adam LaRoche's potential double-play grounder. But Uribe double-clutched with Justin Upton bearing down on him, and the inning continued.

After Affeldt's ball in the dirt scored Jackson, the left-hander struck out Mark Reynolds with his very next pitch.

Lincecum entered with a 5-0 record, 1.76 ERA and major-league-leading 67 strikeouts, all flashy numbers that belied the constant battle he's been waging to find rhythm on the mound. He is throwing more pitches per plate appearance and fewer balls in the strike zone than in previous seasons. He's also done a masterful job limiting the damage.

Lincecum could hide his issues for only so long Thursday. He skirted a walk in each of his first three innings, but a head-on collision arrived in a five-run fifth. He walked two more, and both scored one on Stephen Drew's tying, two-run triple, the other on Reynolds' two-run homer that landed in the upper deck.

Lincecum escaped the inning with his 100th pitch, and with his spot due up third in the sixth, it was automatic that he'd leave for a pinch hitter as the Giants trailed 5-2.

But the Giants did better than take Lincecum off the hook. They scored five runs in the sixth to put him in line for a victory.

Uribe hit a leadoff homer, John Bowker made it back-to-back shots, and pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa scored the tying run on Sanchez's sacrifice fly.

Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch curiously decided to walk Pablo Sandoval intentionally with first base open, and Aubrey Huff made hindsight painful when he lined a tiebreaking, two-run double.

But both bullpens had trouble. The Diamondbacks entered with a 7.90 ERA in relief, the worst in the NL. And the Giants were gassed after Tuesday's 12-inning game at San Diego followed by Todd Wellemeyer's short outing Wednesday.

Before the game, Bochy smirked as writers asked about his unconventional lineup.

"I don't know what the game's coming to," he said, later adding, "I know I'm boring. I've gotta give y'all something to write about."

Bochy said he didn't anticipate batting the pitcher eighth very often, but the stars aligned this time.

"I wanted to get Freddy Sanchez back in the No. 2 hole where he's comfortable," Bochy said. "And if there's ever a game it would make sense, it's today. Torres gives us another speed guy in front of the 3-4-5 hitters. Timmy handles the bat well. Torres can run a little bit. And it changes things up."

Bochy added that Torres would continue to hit ninth this weekend when the Giants have a designated hitter for their interleague series at Oakland.