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Sandoval's two-run homer leads Giants past Padres
By JANIE McCAULEY
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Behind in the count with the bases loaded, Buster Posey called for a fastball and Tim Lincecum executed just the right pitch to retire Chase Headley, the guy with three home runs to his name against the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner.
Lincecum pounded the strike zone from the start and sure is showing signs of regaining his old, dominant pitching form, and Pablo Sandoval's two-run homer provided all the support needed in the San Francisco Giants' 2-0 victory against the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
"I just went out there today with purpose and knowing that every pitch has got a meaning to it," Lincecum said. "When I can go out there and do that and you can stick to your game plan and know that it's going to work, it gives you something like a springboard to jump off of, instead of kind of going out there aimlessly."
No pitch was bigger than the one that induced Headley's inning-ending grounder in the third with the Padres threatening. After back-to-back changeups in the dirt, Lincecum went to his reliable fastball.
"He made the right pitch to get out of it. That was a big at-bat and pitch for Timmy to get out of that inning," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Tonight he was on. It was evident. He had great determination."
Lincecum (2-0) struck out a season-best eight batters in 6 2-3 scoreless innings, providing a steady presence on the mound after he had allowed four or more runs in a single inning in two of his previous three starts this year. San Francisco has won in each of his outings so far.
Sandoval connected for his third home run three pitches after another hard-hit ball fell about an inch foul of an RBI double. The drive landed in the elevated right-field arcade for a 2-0 lead in the fourth that held up. The Giants are 8-1 this season when scoring first.
Lincecum was caught for the first time in 2013 by reigning NL MVP Posey, a pair that rarely worked together in 2012 as Posey returned from season-ending left leg and ankle injuries the year before.
"He had a great tempo from the start," Posey said. "I've caught him plenty enough to be comfortable."
Lincecum, who pitched in relief during last fall's postseason run to the championship after a season of struggles, retired the first six batters of the game in order, then escaped the third unscathed when he threw the 3-1 fastball for Headley's grounder.
"His fastball had good life on it," Headley said. "When a guy has a split-finger that really dodges the plate and he has a fastball that's riding through the zone, that makes that pitch better."
The next inning, Lincecum got three quick outs on seven pitches.
He allowed four hits and walked two, lowering his ERA from 5.63 to 3.97 as the Giants won for the 15th time in their last 19 games at home dating to last season.
Jose Mijares and Santiago Casilla each recorded two outs in relief before Sergio Romo finished the five-hitter for the Giants' fourth shutout and his majors-leading eighth save in nine chances.
Sandoval delivered the key hit against Andrew Cashner (0-1) a night after Angel Pagan's one-out double in the ninth lifted the Giants to a 3-2 win in the series opener.
"Sandoval's a talented hitter. He's a slasher. He hits all pitches," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That was a good pitch, mid-range, mid 90's fastball at the hands. He brought his hands into the ball and hit a fly ball to right that carried."
Sandoval fouled a ball off his right foot in the seventh but stayed in the game after being checked out, then Joaquin Arias came in for defense at third base in the top of the eighth.
Arias was scheduled to play Sunday anyway, and Bochy said Sandoval would likely be sore.
"I'm fine," the slugger said.
The Padres scratched Clayton Richard when the left-hander came down with a stomach virus and began vomiting shortly after waking up Saturday.
Cashner, who had been a long reliever so far this season, was called upon to make a spot start in place of Richard - his seventh major league start in four seasons.
Bochy then shuffled his lineup for a right-handed starter, and said Arias and outfielder Andres Torres would start Sunday's series finale after they had been in Saturday's first lineup.
Cashner allowed two hits and two runs in four innings, struck out five and walked one.
Padres leadoff man Everth Cabrera had a pair of hits, and his double to start the eighth was the Padres' lone extra-base hit in their first shutout of the year.
Hunter Pence stole his fourth base in the seventh for San Francisco. He had five steals all of last season.
Notes: Romo has struck out 11 of his last 24 batters. ... San Diego placed RHP Tyson Ross on the 15-day DL with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. If Richard is well enough, he would fill Ross' slot in the rotation at home Tuesday against Milwaukee. ... Bochy said he is sorry thousands of fans were late getting into the ballpark Friday night with extra security measures, including the use of electronic wands. "We certainly apologize to fans who did miss a few pitches in the game," Bochy said. "Sometimes things have to be done to be cautious." ... Before the bottom of the second, the Giants wished a "speedy recovery" to 11-year-old Aaron Hern of nearby Martinez after he was injured at the Boston marathon. His photo was shown on the main scoreboard and the boy received a standing ovation.
Updated April 21, 2013