MLB: Win worth wait for Lincecum, Sandoval, Giants
By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News
SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants set an unofficial major league record Sunday night: Quickest post-victory handshake line of all time.
An instant after Jeremy Affeldt struck out the Atlanta Braves' Matt Diaz to complete a 6-3 victory, the skies burst with horizontal rain and pelted everyone not under cover at AT&T Park.
"It was an epic moment," said Affeldt, who is known to appreciate a biblical story. "I don't mind being in that situation. It was a good feeling."
For the Giants, it was a tremendous ending to the season's first week — and a very long night. The Giants and Braves waited through a delay of four hours, nine minutes before Tim Lincecum threw the first pitch.
And the game left the Giants feeling good about their two best players, too. Lincecum struck out 10 in seven innings, including the final three hitters he faced, and Pablo Sandoval had a two-run home run amid a three-hit game to shake off a slow start.
"This was the starting point," Sandoval said. "This is the point to turn it around and help the team."
Sandoval's mammoth home run in the eighth inning cut through a fierce wind to land in the right field arcade. Manager Bruce Bochy said he wasn't sure a ball could be hit harder.
Nobody appreciated it more than Lincecum, who gave up his own wind-defying two-run blast to the Braves' Brian McCann in the first inning.
"That made me feel better," Lincecum said.
Said Sandoval: "That was the pitch I was looking for. I tried to hit a line drive and got it on the barrel. It was the right spot."
The Giants had the right pitcher in the right spot, too. Their perpetually relaxed ace said he "occupied some time with the Golden Tee (video game), threw a 30-minute nap in there at some point" while waiting out the delay. The Seattle native didn't mind the wet, 50-degree conditions, either.
Sandoval said he'd never played in those conditions before, but he liked them. A reporter reminded him he's known as the Panda, not a polar bear.
"He's human," Bochy said. "It's early in the season. Even Pablo will get out of sync occasionally, but even then, he finds a way to get hits. He's an incredible talent."
Sandoval said he tried to calm himself at the plate. He tripled and scored on Aubrey Huff's single in the fourth inning, then his two-out single started a two-run rally that put the Giants ahead in the sixth.
After Huff walked, Mark DeRosa singled and right fielder Jason Heyward's throw to the plate was up the line. It hit Sandoval's leg and bounced away, allowing Huff to score. Lincecum (2-0) sprinted for a better view in the dugout and cheered wildly.
"Pablo started every rally we had," Lincecum said.
Lincecum didn't give the Braves a chance to retake the lead in the seventh, striking out Diaz, Omar Infante and pinch hitter Brooks Conrad in order.
Despite working all spring on his two breaking balls, Lincecum's change-up overwhelmed the Braves lineup and he kept going to it with two strikes. Catcher Bengie Molina said he and Lincecum actually got burned in the first inning when they tried to de-emphasize the change-up and McCann drilled a fastball.
It was the first home run Lincecum has allowed at AT&T Park since Sept. 23, 2008, to Colorado's Seth Smith. He gave up 10 home runs last year, all on the road.
Both teams waited out the delay knowing the schedule held few opportunities for a makeup. Giants president Larry Baer said the club even talked about scheduling a split doubleheader for Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the afternoon and the Braves at night.
"At one point, there was no window," Bochy said. "It's a good thing we waited as long as we did. It was well worth it for us."