After Tuesday's loss to the Padres and a 17-of-24 losing stretch led Giants manager Bruce Bochy to invoke Murphy's Law, Wednesday night's 2-1 victory at AT&T Park was a more pleasant reminder that sometimes things do go the way they should.
Carlos Beltran, the Giants' biggest Trade Deadline acquisition, hit a huge, tiebreaking homer. Brandon Belt, the franchise's top hitting prospect who has been tossed between the Majors and Minors for much of the year, played like a big leaguer. And Tim Lincecum, San Francisco's ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner, threw eight strong innings and rightfully received his 12th win of the season.
"We needed that," Bochy said, though the Giants still trail the D-backs by two games in the National League West. "With what happened yesterday and our struggles here recently, it takes a great pitching effort, and hopefully that gets you back on track."
Lincecum labored through a 27-pitch first inning but remained effective until his final pitch, a 92-mph fastball to strike out Jesus Guzman. Despite walking five batters on the night, Lincecum allowed only one run on four hits and struck out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.46 -- one one-hundredth of a run lower than teammate Ryan Vogelsong (2.47), who starts Thursday night's series opener against Houston.
Lincecum managed to get through eight innings, doing his part to preserve a bullpen that is without its two best late-inning relievers (Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo) and has been worked hard lately.
"His count was up there a little bit, but he said he felt great, and he pitched like it," Bochy said. "Timmy did what he does best, and that's make great pitches when he has to."
After 3 1/2 innings, Beltran broke a scoreless tie with a solo shot to right field off Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer, his first homer since coming to the Giants from the Mets nearly a month ago and struggling through a bothersome right hand strain.
The injury had kept Beltran off the field primarily because of its effect on his left-handed swing. But the switch-hitter erased any doubts by drilling a 1-1 pitch from the left side into the right-field arcade. Beltran had his hand wrapped in a heater when he sat in the dugout, and he issued another reminder that he might not be able to play without pain for the rest of the season.
"For him to hit a home run his first time back is pretty impressive," Bochy said. "I thought it'd take him a few games to get his timing down, but he got a changeup there and hit it well. ... It's just great to have him back."
Following Beltran's first homer at AT&T Park, the fifth inning brought two more firsts for the Giants and, more importantly, an insurance run. Belt led off the inning with his first Major League triple -- a booming shot to right-center field that likely would have been a home run in most parks. Bochy said he thought it would be the first of many, given Belt's gap power and speed on the basepaths.
Lincecum then aided his cause, driving in Belt with a single -- his first RBI of the season -- a high chopper over Guzman at first base.
Belt finished 2-for-3 with a stolen base. The left-handed slugger is batting .310 (9-for-29) with four extra-base hits since his most recent callup, showing the ability that made many Giants fans clamor for him throughout the season. But Belt said he learned something in every demotion to the Minors, even if it wasn't an enjoyable experience, and he returned to the Majors this time with a focus on consistent production -- and it's paying off.
"I see the confidence growing in this kid and that sense of belonging that you need to have up here," Bochy said. "I like his at-bats. He has a good eye up there. He's driving the ball. He's going to hit a lot of triples, I think, because he can run. He has good gap power, and he's going to hit some home runs. But I do see him getting better and better."
But the Padres quickly cut the lead in half. Cameron Maybin led off the sixth with a single that second baseman Jeff Keppinger had to dive to stop. Lincecum induced a Jesus Guzman flyout to Keppinger to get the first out but surrendered a triple to Orlando Hudson. Beltran dove for the ball, but it bounced beneath his glove and rolled into the right-field corner, allowing Maybin to easily score from first.
Lincecum left Hudson stranded at third and didn't look back, sitting the Padres down in order in the seventh and eighth despite having already thrown 96 pitches in his first six innings. That enabled Santiago Casilla to throw a perfect ninth, striking out two and picking up his first save of the season.
But it was Lincecum, of course, who drew the most praise from the Padres after the game.
"The dude is a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He ain't no punk on the mound," Hudson said. "He has a hard fastball, a sharp slider and a good splitter. And he's a workhorse. What did he throw, 120 pitches?
"He's one of the elite pitchers in baseball. I can see him walk to the podium and grab a few more Cy Youngs. That's the type of pitcher he is."
And he pitched exactly the type of game the Giants needed.