SAN FRANCISCO -- While most other National League clubs have spent the past three seasons realizing Tim Lincecum's days of consistent dominance are over, the Braves have continued to allow him to look much like he did when he won consecutive Cy Young Awards.
As their offense has slumbered through the past two weeks, the Braves have had the misfortune of facing Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez and Adam Wainwright. While it might be easy to tip the cap when facing those three aces, it is harder to accept the futile results produced in the two matchups against Lincecum during this span.
Lincecum harkened memories of yesteryear as he cruised into the eighth inning and benefited from a three-run seventh inning that doomed Gavin Floyd and the Braves in Monday night's 4-2 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park.
"[Lincecum] made pitches and we didn't make him pay for the mistakes he made," Braves left fielder Justin Upton said. "When you go back and look at the tape, he missed over the middle of the plate a couple times and we just didn't hit it."
B.J. Upton's fifth-inning solo home run and seventh-inning double accounted for the only hits surrendered by Lincecum, who also notched a season-high 11 strikeouts. Not a bad day for a pitcher who entered the game with a 5.55 ERA and the National League's second-worst opponents' batting average (.329).
Lincecum has allowed just two earned runs in the 13 2/3 innings that have encompassed his two starts against the Braves this month. He has produced a 6.37 ERA in this season's other six starts, three of which he has exited before the end of the fifth inning.
"It was vintage Timmy the way he had his good secondary pitches going along with the fastball," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was using both sides, all quadrants. He was going up with the ball and had a good curveball, changeup and slider."
Floyd spent the first six innings of this matchup against Lincecum looking much like he had when he allowed the Cardinals one run over seven innings in his impressive return from Tommy John surgery last week. But everything crumbled in the seventh inning after Brandon Crawford's grounder bounced off Freddie Freeman's chest, allowing the Giants to put two on with none out.
The recently promoted Tyler Colvin, who had homered in the second inning, then delivered the decisive blow when he turned on an 0-2 fastball, sending it past first base and into the right-field corner for a two-run triple that gave the Giants a 3-1 lead. Former Braves prospect Brandon Hicks added injury to insult when he lined an 0-2 fastball to center for an RBI single off Floyd.
"I felt I was executing well the whole game," Floyd said. "Obviously looking back, you want to make those [0-2] pitches. But I'm human."
Colvin's second-inning solo shot was the latest of the eight home runs the Braves have allowed the Giants in 35 innings this year. They have surrendered 16 home runs in the 299 2/3 innings completed against all other opponents.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez did not put the blame squarely on Freeman or Floyd, who was charged with four runs -- three earned -- and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"Freeman makes that play and then they got a couple 0-2 hits that inning," Gonzalez said. "When you don't swing the bats, all those plays get maginified. We can sit all day long talking about ... this and that. But it comes down to we didn't put a crooked number up."
Before Sergio Romo came out of the 'pen to retire the only three hitters he faced, Freeman opened the ninth by hitting a solo home run off Javier Lopez into McCovey Cove. Freeman's seventh home run of the season prevented the Braves from scoring less than two runs for the seventh time in a 14-game span. But that is not much solace for a club that has scored two runs or less nine times during that same stretch.
Instead of breaking out of this futile stretch against a struggling pitcher, the Braves simply multiplied their frustrations. Lincecum has posted a 4.76 ERA in the 73 starts he has made since the start of the 2012 season. But he produced a 1.99 ERA in the five starts made against Atlanta during this span.
"We know what he's done against everybody else, but you've got to fight the battle that faces you today," Gonzalez said.
Lincecum notched five strikeouts through the first four innings and kept the Braves hitless until Upton snuck his game-tying home run over the left-field wall with one out in the fifth inning. Upton struck again in the seventh with a double to the left-center-field gap. But that threat was silenced a few moments later when a replay review overturned umpire Dana DeMuth's ruling that Upton successfully stole third base.
"I still thought I was safe," Upton said. "I don't know what evidence they had to overturn it. I guess they saw something different in the booth. It was hard for me to tell as the play was going on. But I still thought I was safe."
Instead of having a runner at third base with one out in a 1-1 game, the Braves once again found themselves dealing with more of the same misery that has followed them over the past couple of weeks.
"It's a game-changer," Gonzalez said of the challenged play. "From the replay I saw on the board, I really couldn't tell. But coming in [the clubhouse] and seeing it, it looks like he got him. From what I've seen, it looks like they got the right call. That's what replay is for. It hurts a little bit. But in the end, that is why it is there."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.