SAN FRANCISCO — Before Monday’s off day, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Justin Maxwell that he would start the first two games of the Dodgers series. Here’s how we know Maxwell is a smart man: He got his big licks in early, before the prospect of facing Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday entered the picture.
Maxwell had a two-run homer and a triple in a 6-2 Giants win. He scored three times and made a play that would have led highlight reels if not for Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik’s love of the glove-flip.
“I tried to stay within myself and not do to much,” he said. “And good things will happen.”
That makes it sound so easy, but nothing has been through two weeks for the defending champs. They entered this night already trailing the Dodgers by six games, but Tim Lincecum gutted his way through six strong innings, Maxwell and Crawford paced the lineup and the gloves took a turn toward spectacular after an uneven 14-game stretch.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Lincecum, Giants, shut down Dodgers]
Maxwell was the surprise star of the night, and he showed off all the skills that had the Giants front office chasing him for years. He can play three outfield positions, and when Bochy was asked before BP to name his most powerful hitter, he listed Maxwell alongside Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner. His two-run blast went 430 feet, leaving his bat at 109 mph, per MLB.com.
“He got around on a (97 mph) fastball,” Crawford said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
The homer came minutes after Maxwell chased a Yasiel Puig fly ball into the right-field corner and made a sliding catch that led to a gash and bruise on his knee, and a long run for trainer Dave Groeschner.
“I didn’t think he would get there off the bat,” Crawford said.
Bochy didn’t, either.
“I had a good angle on it,” he said. “He had to go a long way.”
The catch energized a park that was already rocking because the Dodgers were in town. Maxwell enjoyed his stretch in the sun, and he certainly knows what this series means, having grown up a Giants fan.
“This is my team and I’m very grateful to get a chance to do it in this clubhouse,” he said. “It’s cool being part of the rivalry. You can definitely feel the intensity.”
The Giants struck first in this new year between rivals, and that earned a win for Lincecum, his first as a starter since last August. His 2.00 ERA through three starts is his lowest since 2011, when he posted a 1.86 ERA in his first three outings. That was still the Lincecum who entered every year looking for a Cy Young Award; this one doesn’t throw as hard and doesn’t put up the same numbers, but he can still be effective. Lincecum often succeeds these days by piling up strikeouts, but on Tuesday he won by becoming the first Giant since Livan Hernandez in 2002 to induce four double plays.
“I haven’t had any games this year when I felt I was overpowering anyone with my stuff,” he said. “It’s about pitchability and making pitches when you have to.”
--- It’s your turn to glove-flip, Joe. Crawford now has two to Panik's one in their last 14 starts together, but of course Panik has the most famous one during that stretch. The more interesting play from Crawford tonight was the bunt that brought home the first Giants run. He said he noticed that Brett Anderson falls off toward the third-base side of the bag, but he also saw Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez playing him basically on the grass. He said he aimed for “the Bermuda Triangle” there.
“He’s got that in his arsenal,” Bochy said. “He’s comfortable doing it. He’s really good at not showing it early.”
It was a nice all-around night for the shortstop, and the best decision he made may have come off the field. On Tuesdays this year, he’s using “Tuesday” as his walk-up song. Only on Tuesdays. That’s a strong move.
--- Couple random ex-Giants notes today: Kevin Frandsen signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was sent to their Triple-A team in Reno … Gary Brown was designated for assignment by the Cardinals.
--- This felt like an audition of sorts for Andrew Susac, since Lincecum was on the mound and did not throw to Hector Sanchez. Susac and Lincecum seemed to work well together, and the catcher added two singles and a walk. He’s clearly the better hitter of the two backups right now, and if the Giants feel he’s ready to handle Lincecum and the rest of the staff, it would seem a pretty easy decision. With Travis Ishikawa back soon, they won’t carry three catchers for long.