Tim Lincecum tossed a no-hitter last month, and a change in approach made his latest performance nearly as impressive.
He hasn't come close to being that effective against the Washington Nationals in recent years.
Lincecum attempts to turn in another strong outing to help the San Francisco Giants avoid a seventh straight loss in the nation's capital on Wednesday night.
Lincecum (6-11, 4.18 ERA) threw his first career no-hitter in a 9-0 win at San Diego on July 13, but he followed that up nine days later with his shortest outing of the season. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings, surrendering eight runs in an 11-0 loss to Cincinnati.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner has been outstanding in three games since, compiling a 1.23 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 22 innings.
Lincecum was superb again Thursday, allowing only a third-inning single while going eight scoreless in a 4-1 win over Milwaukee.
"I think I'm just trying to stay within myself," Lincecum said, adding that he relied on his overhand curve more than he had in any start this year. "I know I'm not going to throw a 95 mph fastball anymore, so why try to throw it? I guess I got to use what I got and get outs."
The right-hander will now try to maintain his impressive stretch by beating the Nationals (58-60) for the first time since June 6, 2008. He's 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA over his last five starts against them.
The Giants (52-66) have dropped six in a row in Washington, including Tuesday's 4-2 defeat in the opener of this three-game series. They stranded 12 runners and went 1 for 9 with men in scoring position.
Buster Posey is hitting .164 with two RBIs in 18 games, and his season average has plummeted 24 points to .300. That may not change in Washington since the All-Star catcher is 2 for 17 there over his last five visits.
The Nationals are looking to match a season high with their fifth straight victory, and they're hitting .341 while outscoring opponents 27-9 during this run.
Even though Washington, which is 8 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the NL's second wild-card spot, is playing better, frustration has been apparent in recent weeks. Jayson Werth and Gio Gonzalez were seen in a verbal altercation after the first inning Tuesday, as Werth was angry with Gonzalez for being late covering first base on a ground out.
"Just a little camaraderie going on," manager Davey Johnson said. "Jayson sometimes can get a little vocal."
Gonzalez said "it stays between me and Werth," while Werth refused to comment.
Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.10) will take the mound for the Nationals looking to bounce back after going 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his first four starts since the All-Star break. That includes a 9.95 ERA in three home games.
The right-hander was pulled after 88 pitches in four innings at home last Wednesday, giving up two runs and seven hits while not getting a decision in a 6-3 loss to Atlanta.
Zimmermann is 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA over his last four starts against the Giants.
Bryce Harper may be back after he was held out of the starting lineup Tuesday with the flu, though he later pinch hit.
Harper is 1 for 6 versus Lincecum.
|San Francisco Giants|
|July 31, 2013||Pablo Sandoval||Day-to-Day||Bruised right heel|
|July 30, 2013||Buster Posey||Day-to-Day||Ill|
|July 29, 2013||Tony Abreu||15-Day DL||Left knee bursitis|
|July 25, 2013||Marco Scutaro||Day-to-Day||Back soreness|
|July 21, 2013||Jeremy Affeldt||15-Day DL||Strained left groin|
|July 09, 2013||Hector Sanchez||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|August 13, 2013||Wilson Ramos||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|August 11, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Right knee|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|July 24, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Blister|
|July 24, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left knee soreness|
|July 04, 2013||Ross Detwiler||60-Day DL||Lower back strain|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the outcome of the game riding on his ability to snare a liner in the gap, Denard Span began his pursuit of the baseball by taking a step in the wrong direction.
From that point, Washington's center fielder made all the right moves.
Span made a diving catch in deep center field with two runners on base for the final out, and the Nationals held off the San Francisco Giants 6-5 Wednesday night for their fifth straight victory.
Jordan Zimmermann (14-6) increased his NL-leading win total, allowing one run in seven innings and outpitching Tim Lincecum (6-12). Washington matched its longest winning streak of the season and moved within one victory of .500 for the first time since July 20.
After scoring once in the ninth off Rafael Soriano , the Giants put runners on first and second with two outs. Hunter Pence hit a drive to left-center and Span ran it down, sliding onto the warning track after making the grab and preserving the win.
"I actually took a false step, kind of stepped in a little bit, and then I just broke for the ball and put my head down for two or three steps and was able to, you know, come up for the ball," Span said.
Until the ball landed in his mitt, Span had all sorts of doubts as to whether he would be able to make the catch.
"Off the bat, I'm like oh, bleep bleep," he said, serving as his own censor. "I just put my head down and I looked up and it seemed like I had gained ground on it. And that's when I said, you know what, I'm going to be able to have a chance to reach for it. And once I caught it, I just tried to hold on to it."
Soriano worked around Brandon Belt 's RBI single in the ninth and, helped by Span's grab, earned his 31st save.
"I didn't think he was going to get to it," manager Davey Johnson said of Span. "He kind of put it in another gear and then, full-out leap."
Ian Desmond homered and Anthony Rendon had two RBIs in a five-run fourth inning that put Washington up 6-1.
Zimmermann gave up six hits, walked two and struck out two. After going 1-3 in his previous four starts, the right-hander permitted only two runners past second base.
But the victory wasn't his until Span made his game-saving catch.
"I was up here sitting in the video room with (teammate Tyler) Clippard," Zimmermann said. "I thought it was a double in the gap and then he comes out of nowhere. It was great to see."
In his last 42 regular-season starts, Zimmermann is 23-8 with a 3.01 ERA. Washington is 31-11 in those games.
Lincecum surrendered six runs and seven hits in six innings. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner allowed a combined three runs over 22 innings in his previous three starts.
Belt homered and Pablo Sandoval had three hits for the last-place Giants, who have lost eight of 11 to fall a season-high 15 games under .500 (52-67). Since the All-Star break, the defending World Series champions are 9-16.
It could have been different in this one - except for Span.
"Yeah, I definitely thought that was a hit," Pence said. "I didn't even see him catch it. I had my head down, running. The crowd noise made me look up. I was in shock."
The Giants used a walk to Pence, a stolen base and a two-out single by Roger Kieschnick to manufacture a second-inning run.
In the bottom half, Desmond needed only one swing to tie it. His 17th home run was his 10th career hit in 12 at-bats against Lincecum, including two longballs.
San Francisco got two singles and a walk to load the bases with two outs in the fourth for Lincecum, an .098 lifetime hitter who bounced into a force play.
Similarly, two singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Washington in the bottom half, and the Nationals took full advantage of the situation. Rendon hit a two-run double and Kurt Suzuki followed with an RBI single. A wild pitch by Lincecum let in another run, and Ryan Zimmerman capped the uprising with a run-scoring single.
"I just didn't limit the damage in that inning," Lincecum lamented.
After Zimmermann left, Belt homered off Ian Krol and Sandoval doubled in two runs off Ryan Mattheus before Clippard struck out Kieschnick and Gregor Blanco .
Sandoval's three hits were one more than he had in his previous seven games.
NOTES: Nationals C Wilson Ramos is day-to-day after straining his left hamstring during Tuesday's game. Ramos said Wednesday he expects to be held out "maybe one or two days." ... It was the first time in 10 games that San Francisco lost when scoring at least four runs. The Giants are now 40-12 in such games. ... Washington RHP Dan Haren seeks to win his fourth straight start in the series finale Thursday afternoon. RHP Ryan Vogelsong pitches for the Giants, his second start since returning from the 60-day DL.