SAN FRANCISCO -- There is one overriding reason the Giants had won five of Tim Lincecum’s six starts as they entered his outing Tuesday night.
They scored for him, to the tune of 5.97 runs per game -- and that’s only counting the runs they tallied before Lincecum turned the leftovers to the bullpen.
Well, 5.97 runs would’ve been an improvement over what the Giants managed against Kyle Kendrick and two Phillies relievers. But it still would’ve left them a wee bit short.
Lincecum managed to complete seven innings, but not before allowing five runs with a very hittable fastball, and Jose Mijares gave up one more in the ninth as the Giants lost 6-2 at AT&T Park.
Starting pitching report
If you view Lincecum as a No. 5 starter, which is more or less his place in the Giants rotation these days, he had a fairly effective start.
He managed to finish seven innings, so he didn’t overtax the bullpen –- a feat in itself, considering his pitch count stood at 31 after one inning and 60 after three.
And he avoided the big inning that has caused so many starts to backfire for the Giants rotation all season.
But it was hardly a good outing. Lincecum (2-2) struggled in the early innings to locate any pitch below the belt. His fastball was far from a swing-and-miss pitch. And that 31-pitch first inning might have been a lot easier if not for a bad angle and a bad throw.
Chase Utley appeared to be running inside the baseline when Lincecum fielded his grounder to the right of the mound and tried to angle his throw to first baseman Brandon Belt. It got away, allowing Utley to take second base, and Ryan Howard singled him home.
The Phillies made the most of their baserunners in a two-run second inning. Laynce Nix and Ben Revere hit singles and advanced on a sacrifice. Then with the infield back, Lincecum couldn’t get a strikeout when he needed it. Jimmy Rollins hit an RBI ground out to second base and Utley whacked another fastball at the belt past Lincecum and into center field for a single that scored Revere.
After a hard out from Michael Young helped Lincecum escape the second inning, the right-hander began going to his changeup more often as he searched for any pitch he could throw down in the zone.
He paid for a hanging slider leading off the fifth, though, when Utley hit a home run into the right field arcade. The Phillies added one more run in the seventh as the Giants tried to coax one more inning from their former ace. Rollins hit a one-out single, advanced on a ground out and scored on Young’s two-out double.
Lincecum issued an intentional walk to Howard before getting Carlos Ruiz to hit a tapper back to the mound, ending the pitcher’s night.
It was the second time in three starts that Lincecum completed seven innings, as the Giants let him throw a season-high 114 pitches. Prior to his last three starts, Lincecum hadn’t completed seven innings since Aug. 10 of last season.
This one could have been much worse. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a nice stop of Young’s hard-hit grounder in the fifth and Ruiz lined out to second baseman Marco Scutaro in the fifth.
Lincecum was throwing 92- to 93-mph at times, but it was straight and up –- and the Phillies were ready for it. Of the Phillies’ nine hits against Lincecum, eight came on his fastball -- four of those came on the first pitch.
Jose Mijares pitched for the first time in nine days after returning from bereavement leave. He allowed a two-out bunt single in the eighth and walked pinch hitter and former Giant Kevin Frandsen, who was making his first appearance at AT&T Park as a visiting player. But Rollins struck out looking to end the inning.
Mijares punched his glove in anger when he served up Howard’s solo homer in the ninth.
At the plate
The Giants entered the game averaging 3.70 pitches per plate appearance, the fewest in the major leagues. Part of that is a function of their 80 percent contact rate, the second highest behind the St. Louis Cardinals. And their 206 strikeouts were the fewest among NL clubs, too.
But when the Giants are making outs, they allow a starting pitcher to breeze with a low pitch count. That’s what Kyle Kendrick managed to do, throwing just 88 pitches in seven innings.
Kendrick isn’t exactly in Cliff Lee’s class, but he hasn’t lost since his season debut April 5 and has a 1.71 ERA in five starts since then.
At least the lower third of the Giants lineup showed some life. Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford lugged a combined 3-for-48 slump into the game, but they went single-double to start a two-run rally in the third inning. Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly and Scutaro followed with an RBI double down the left field line as the Giants got within 3-2.
But the Giants managed to get just one more runner into scoring position against Kendrick over the next four innings, and that was thanks to Young’s fielding error at third base.
Other from Lincecum's throwing error in the first, Belt was charged with a throwing error that allowed Revere to take an extra base in the eighth.
The Giants announced 41,226 paid, and I think the Phillie Phanatic got around to hazing almost all of them in his guest appearance.
The Giants will try to avoid being swept as they conclude their three-game series with the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park. Barry Zito (3-1, 3.06) takes the mound against Phillies right-hander Jonathan Pettibone (2-0, 3.24). First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.