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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 5, 2010

MLB: Giants barely pass endurance test in 12-inning win over Marlins

By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News

MIAMI By the third inning, Tim Lincecum's long locks were limp with perspiration. By the fifth, he'd struck out 11 batters.

But Tuesday night's 9-6, 12-inning victory on a steamy night in South Florida was more than a test of stamina for the San Francisco Giants' waifish ace. It was an endurance exam for the entire team.

The wacky night included two blown leads on three-run home runs by Hanley Ramirez (off Lincecum) and Dan Uggla (off Sergio Romo). It included a diving catch in center field by Aaron Rowand, and an even bigger save with the Giants down to their final out in the ninth.

It included 20 strikeouts by Giants pitchers, just the third time they've assembled that many Ks in the club's 52-year San Francisco era.

And eventually, it included thumping music in the visiting clubhouse even if the players were too weary to bounce along.

"I knew a couple of our guys were running on empty," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's why I'm so proud of 'em."

The bullpen blew Lincecum's victory for the second consecutive start, when Uggla victimized Romo in the eighth to give the Marlins a one-run lead. But down to their final out in the ninth, Rowand rescued the Giants with a solo homer to force extra innings. Aubrey Huff's two-run single in the 12th put them ahead.

By the end, everyone was glistening, and the Giants just might have erased one of their biggest stigmas, too.

For the first time in nearly two years, they won the opener of a road trip outside the Pacific time zone.

Unbelievably, the Giants had been winless in their last 10 games while opening trips in the Central or Eastern time zone. Their last trip-opening victory east of the Rockies came in June, 2008, at Kansas City.

"C'mon, no way," Bochy said. "But you know, for us, we've talked about it. It takes time to get acclimated. We're used to playing in the cool weather at home. That's what makes this one such a great effort. It didn't look good for us there."

Not in the ninth. Marlins closer Leo Nunez hadn't allowed an earned run and right-handed hitters were 0-for-17 against him before Rowand hit a first-pitch slider into the orange seats.

It was the last of several game-changing long balls. Lincecum briefly retained a 3-0 lead in the sixth after Rowand's diving play took a sure two-run double away from Chris Coghlan. But Lincecum hung a first-pitch slider to Ramirez, who drove it beyond Rowand's boundaries to tie it.

The Giants put Lincecum in line for the victory when Juan Uribe hit a two-run double in the eighth. But Romo, who was bitten by the long ball last month at Dodger Stadium, served up another crushing home run.

If the Giants bullpen had protected Lincecum's decisions in his past two starts, he'd be the first Giants pitcher to win his first six starts since Juan Marichal in 1966. He is 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA and has struck out 56 (while walking just eight) in 421/3innings.

"He's just dominated," Bochy said. "It was two infield hits, really, and one mistake to a good hitter."

Lincecum isn't the only one with strikeout stuff. Guillermo Mota fanned Brian Barden in the 12th, giving the staff 20 strikeouts for the first time since a 15-inning game at San Diego in 2001. The franchise record is 22, set in a 23-inning victory against the Mets in 1964.

Thankfully, the Giants didn't have to go nearly so deep into the night to win this time.

"All the way to the last out," Huff said. "That's the sign of a good team."