Lincecum strikes out 9 in 6 innings as Giants take 1-0 over Braves in NLDS opener

By Josh Dubow, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Giants lead Braves 1-0 after 6 innings

SAN FRANCISCO — Tim Lincecum had nine strikeouts through six scoreless innings of his postseason debut and the San Francisco Giants took advantage of a questionable umpiring call to take a 1-0 lead over the Atlanta Braves in their NL division series opener Thursday night.

Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young winner, looked extremely sharp, especially with his offspeed pitches. He struck out five straight hitters at one point and got the Braves to swing and miss at 19 of his 77 pitches in the first six innings. The only hit he allowed came on a leadoff double by Omar Infante.

Postseason veteran Derek Lowe was nearly as stingy for the Braves even if he wasn’t nearly as dominant. The only run he allowed came after what appeared to be another blown umpiring call in the postseason.

Buster Posey led off the fourth inning with a single and stole second on a third strike to Pat Burrell. Second baseman Brooks Conrad appeared to tag Posey before his foot touched second but Paul Emmel called Posey safe.

That became big after Braves manager Bobby Cox ordered Lowe to intentionally walk Pablo Sandoval with two outs to face Cody Ross. The move backfired when Ross’ grounder to third base got under Infante’s glove for an RBI single.

The Giants nearly added more in the sixth inning but were once again done in by a double play. Posey led off the inning with a double to the wall in center and went to third base when Rick Ankiel bobbled the ball. Lowe was replaced by Jonny Venters after walking Juan Uribe with one out.

Venters got Sandoval to hit into an inning-ending double play on his first pitch. It was the second double play the Giants hit into in the game after having an NL-worst 158 in the regular season.

Lincecum’s performance delighted the orange towel-waving sellout crowd that has been waiting seven years for the Giants to get back in the playoffs. They clinched the NL West by beating San Diego at home on the final day of the season and the party continued for the series opener against the wild-card Braves.

Atlanta was also back in the postseason after a break, having last been here in 2005. The Braves also clinched their berth on the final day of the season, extending Cox’s career before he retires at the end of the season.

Both teams put the leadoff man on in the first inning but were unable to score. Infante was stranded after doubling to leadoff the game as Lincecum struck out Derrek Lee and Brian McCann to end the inning.

Lincecum followed that up by getting Alex Gonzalez, Matt Diaz and Conrad to strike out swinging in the second inning with all nine strikes coming on swings and misses.

Andres Torres singled to lead off the bottom half of the first for the Giants but was quickly erased when Freddy Sanchez hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

The Giants were unable to take advantage of an error by Conrad at second base in the third inning. Conrad mishandled Torres’ grounder to put runners on first and third with one out.

But Lowe got Sanchez to hit a comebacker that got Ross caught in a rundown between third and home and struck out Aubrey Huff with runners on second and third to end the threat.

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