DENVER -- Bruce Bochy prides himself on knowing his pitchers, but the knowledge goes both ways.
When Tim Lincecum ran into trouble with two outs in the sixth inning Wednesday, Bochy jogged toward the mound. Lincecum knew the jog, in lieu of Bochy's usual deliberate walk to pull a pitcher, meant he had one more chance. He made the most of it. Lincecum struck out Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler on three pitches to cement another solid night and keep the Giants well on their way to an 8-3 victory at Coors Field.
"I knew there was going to be something going on in the next couple of batters, and I knew I had to get out of (the inning) or I'm out of the game," Lincecum said. "I dug deep."
It's a trait that Lincecum has shown throughout a second half in which he has a 6-4 record and 3.33 ERA, the lowest on the starting staff. Lincecum was 1-6 with a 9.00 ERA in his first 10 road starts, including an early shelling at Coors Field that foreshadowed a rough stretch to come. But Wednesday's victory gave him five straight road victories, something he had never previously accomplished in the big leagues.
"He's really elevated his game and gotten on track, which is huge for us," Bochy said. "We've had a couple of guys who have had their hiccups, and he has picked up his game and picked us up."
On a night when Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval were out of the starting lineup, the lineup picked up the slack early. Gregor Blanco hit
"I've gotten more comfortable with (hitting eighth) as the year has gone on," Crawford said. "It's a tough spot to hit in, but I'm getting more used to it. You learn when to expand the zone and when to be more patient with the pitcher coming up."
Given an early cushion, Lincecum at first stumbled. He walked a batter in each of his first two innings, extending his streak to 10 straight innings with a walk, the longest by a Giants starter since John D'Acquisto did it in 1976.
"It's messing with fire there, and obviously it just takes one bloop hit to have a big inning," Lincecum said. "I was just trying to be too fine. After that I just kind of opened my sight to a big strike zone and threw strikes."
Lincecum gave up a homer in the third but then cruised into the sixth, when the Rockies cut the deficit to 6-3 on Charlie Blackmon's RBI double. Lincecum was at 105 pitches when Bochy trotted out to the mound.
"I said 'You're the guy right now -- focus on your pitch,' " Bochy said. "He made three great pitches."
Lincecum threw a slider for a called strike and got ahead 0-2 when Fowler, the Rockies' leadoff hitter, fouled off a curveball. He blew a 90 mph fastball past Fowler to end the at-bat and inning.
"This feels good, obviously, because from a personal standpoint you want to be getting better as the year goes on," Lincecum said. "I've completely eliminated the first half from my mindset."
Bochy has displayed a new mindset in September, making plenty of pitching changes as he tries to finish out games with his 14-man bullpen. Seven relief pitchers took the mound in the final three innings.
"I've been here a few times and I've seen some comebacks that are hard to stop," Bochy said. "You don't want to get a rally started here, because momentum gets going."
The Giants are the ones with the momentum at the moment. They're 8-0-1 in their second-half road series and have a season-high seven-game lead in the National League West with 19 games to play.
Sandoval entered Wednesday's game with a .222 average and just three extra-base hits since coming off the disabled list Aug. 13.
"This will give him a couple of days to get away," Bochy said. "He's fighting it and it's starting to mount up on him in terms of trying too hard."
Pagan has been red-hot but admitted Wednesday that he has been playing through a minor hand injury that he suffered in spring training. A callous on his left hand split and left him with a cut that Pagan described as being a persistent feeling similar to a paper cut.
The Giants expect Pagan back in the starting lineup Friday. Pagan didn't get a full day off Wednesday; he struck out in a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth inning and stayed in on defense.
After a three-game series in Los Angeles, the Giants play their home opener on April 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Giants will host the Dodgers for three series, on May 3-5, July 5-7 and Sept. 24-26. Their longest homestand is a 10-game stretch from May 3-12 against the Dodgers, Phillies and Braves.
They have two 10-game road trips, on June 24-July 4 at Los Angeles, Colorado, Cincinnati; and Sept. 12-22 at the Dodgers, Mets and Yankees.