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COL@SF: Lincecum strikes out seven over seven frames

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants stuffed so much into their 5-4 loss Tuesday night to the Colorado Rockies that they nearly turned Tim Lincecum into an afterthought.

As it turned out, Lincecum's performance was among the redeeming elements in a mostly frustrating evening for the Giants, who demonstrated a lot of good and bad baseball during the three-hour, 33-minute contest that halted their three-game winning streak.

Lincecum's seven-inning outing was his second-longest of the season. He yielded four runs and seven hits, but he struck out seven and his unsightly 5.89 ERA shrank slightly, to 5.77. His 122-pitch total reflected durability.

Lincecum's effort wasn't totally obscured by the Giants' three-run surge in the seventh inning that erased a 4-1 deficit. Nor was his stint besmirched when relief ace Santiago Casilla yielded Marco Scutaro's home run that christened the ninth inning. And it wasn't spoiled even when pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz took a third strike on Rafael Betancourt's 3-2 pitch to end the game with two on and two outs in the Giants' half of the ninth.

"Tim was really good at times, early," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He made mistakes and didn't get away with them, but I see him geting better and better."

Lincecum recorded his initial 1-2-3 first inning of the season, signaling that this would not be another dreadful experience. He struck out four Rockies the first time through the batting order and didn't allow a hit until Carlos Gonzalez blooped a one-out double to left field in the fourth inning.

But the always self-critical Lincecum sounded anything but satisfied.

"It's not a step forward or back. It's just another game, obviously," Lincecum said.

Lincecum was annoyed with his final inning, when Carlos Gonzalez poked a two-out RBI single to left field that hiked Colorado's lead to 4-1.

"I've been known to get out of innings like that and pick up the team, and not put so much pressure on my team to bail me out," Lincecum said.

The Giants couldn't bail themselves out. They went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position and twice failed to deliver a runner from third base with less than two outs. It happened in the fourth inning, when Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie struck out Emmanuel Burriss and Lincecum with runners on the corners. But the more aggravating instance for the Giants occurred in the eighth inning. That's when Colorado reliever Rex Brothers (2-2) walked the bases loaded and left them that way by striking out Brandon Belt and Melky Cabrera, whose two-run double was the biggest hit of the seventh-inning uprising.

"The game was right there in front of us," Bochy said. "We had our chances. We just needed contact and couldn't get it. You don't get the runs in, it usually comes back to hurt you."

Belt's strikeout appeared uncharacteristic.

"Brandon is one of our more disciplined hitters," Bochy said. "I think he got too aggressive and caught up in the moment. ... It's hard to put a take on with the game on the line and, of course, I don't want Melky taking anything. He's swinging the bat better than anybody."

Rockies manager Jim Tracy praised Brothers, who absorbed the decision in the Giants' 3-2 victory Monday: "He threw the best pitches that he's thrown to date this year in the sequences to Belt and Cabrera. He hasn't thrown the ball with more authority and more aggressively and better than that at any time this year. That's the guy we're looking for."

After Scutaro, who entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, stunned Casilla with his first homer of the season, the Giants rallied again in the ninth as Angel Pagan, who went 3-for-5, singled and stole second base before Brandon Crawford drew a walk. Up came Schierholtz, the Giants' best pinch-hitter. Television replays indicated that he struck out on Betancourt's 2-2 pitch, but third-base umpire Kerwin Danley ruled it a checked swing. Unfazed, Betancourt poured in a fastball that appeared to travel down the middle of the plate for strike three.

Despite the missed opportunities, Crawford, who walked twice and singled twice, focused on the encouraging signs.

"We seem to always have some good at-bats late in the game," Crawford said. "We had some good ones there in the seventh and again in the eighth and ninth. We battled all night. That's how we have to play."

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