Angels rally late on Lincecum for sweep
Hunter, Guerrero get key pinch-hits in eighth inning
SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe the role reversals took Tim Lincecum out of his rhythm, upset the delicate balance of things.
More likely, it was simply serendipity, the sequence of events that led to an Angels sweep of the Giants and Lincecum's first loss in more than two months.
"That's what [Erick] Aybar and I were yelling about," Chone Figgins said, his double the pivotal blow in a three-run eighth inning that lifted the Angels to a 4-3 decision over the great Lincecum and his Giants on Wednesday at AT&T Park.
The Angels' sixth consecutive win, all at the expense of the National League West, brought them to 8-1 in Interleague Play.
"We had Torii [Hunter] and Vlad [Guerrero] setting the table for us, so it was up to Aybar and me to come through," Figgins said, reconstructing the decisive eighth. "And we had to do it against one of the toughest guys in the game with runners in scoring position.
"You have to be aggressive against a guy like Lincecum. He'll bury you with the stuff he has if you're not."
Lincecum, who hadn't lost since April 12 in San Diego, was cruising toward his seventh win when Hunter came off the bench to open the eighth. In his first appearance since crashing into a wall Friday night and bruising ribs, he stroked Lincecum's first pitch to center for the Angels' fourth hit of the day.
"That's Torii," Matt Palmer observed. "He always gives us what we need. We have some great leaders here, and he's one of them."
Pinch-hitting for the third straight day with the designated-hitter role unavailable, Guerrero stroked his third straight single, sending Hunter to second.
Figgins had bunted for a single earlier, and a sacrifice would have put two men in scoring position.
"Figgy's one of our best hitters," Hunter said. "I wanted him swinging."
So did manager Mike Scioscia, with the only vote that counted.
Figgins fell behind 1-2, worked the count full and then lashed a ball off the glove of second baseman Matt Downs. The ball caromed toward the right-field line, and Figgins was sliding into second in a heartbeat with an RBI double.
When Aybar followed with a roller to the hole at shortstop for an RBI single, Guerrero scoring from third, the Angels were even.
After Maicer Izturis struck out, Juan Rivera hit a chopper to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who took the out at first as Figgins scored.
"I didn't think there was any chance of getting Chone," Scioscia said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt differently.
"In that situation," Bochy said, "you have to go for it."
Bochy praised Lincecum -- nine strikeouts, no walks, eight hits in eight innings -- for getting what he needed against Rivera and Izturis.
"He had a big strikeout and a ground ball," Bochy said. "That was what we were looking for with a man on third. We just didn't make the play at home."
Six Giants outs courtesy of relievers Darren Oliver, Justin Speier and Brian Fuentes handed Kevin Jepsen his first Major League victory.
In relief of Palmer, who held the Giants to three runs across 6 1/3 innings, Jepsen (1-2) had secured the final two outs in the seventh -- the second courtesy of a strong throw by Robb Quinlan and tag at home by Jeff Mathis.
"Q made a great throw," Scioscia said, "and Jeff made a great tag. He blocked him off."
Scioscia appreciated the way Palmer held his ground, yielding six hits and two walks (one intentional) while striking out five men.
"I thought Matty did what he's been doing all season," Scioscia said of Palmer, who kept his record unbeaten at 6-0. "He changed speeds, made pitches, kept us in the game."
Palmer, Lincecum's teammate with Triple-A Fresno for a brief time in 2007, understood his challenge against his former club.
"You look at a guy with his ERA, a Cy Young Award, you can't allow a lot of runs," said Palmer, who was 0-2 in three Giants starts last year.
After retiring the first seven men he faced, Palmer was touched in the third for RBI singles by Andres Torres and Randy Winn.
The Angels, having gone down in order the first three innings with five strikeouts, stirred in the fourth. After Figgins' bunt single, Izturis forced him at second, advanced on a wild pitch and scored when Rivera sent an RBI single to left.
Kendry Morales followed with a double into the right-field corner, Rivera stopping at third, but they were stranded when Lincecum struck out Gary Matthews Jr.
Palmer yielded a solo homer to Travis Ishikawa in the seventh and departed with one out and a runner in scoring position. Jepsen retired Torres before Renteria singled to left. Quinlan and Mathis collaborated on a play that would look much bigger when Hunter, Guerrero and Co. went to work in the eighth.
"With our lineup," Palmer said, "everybody can drive the ball and get the big hit when we need it."
Before Fuentes retired the side in order in the ninth, getting a pair of strikeouts, Speier struck out Aaron Rowand with a wicked splitter to finish the eighth. Oliver had walked two hitters with two outs.
"Justin pitching well," Scisocia said, "will definitely be one of the [bullpen] solutions."
Their mojo seemingly back in place, the Angels open a three-game weekend series with the Dodgers at home Friday night.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.