DENVER -- Tim Lincecum once leaned on his competitive streak while playing the role of "stopper," the pitcher others would look to when the Giants needed a boost. Lincecum again has turned up the heat in recent weeks, and this time it's not the team he's saving, it's himself.
After a brutal first half that nearly knocked him out of the rotation, Lincecum has righted his season. He took the win Sunday in an 8-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies that clinched the Giants' first road sweep of the season. Lincecum flirted with disaster all day but gave up just one earned run in six innings and has a 2.48 ERA since the All-Star break.
"I'm just trying to get back that edge," he said. "I just wanted to dig deep because I knew this was a big game. I'm trying to stay competitive. Being able to lean on that helps me when I don't have my best stuff."
Lincecum was far from his best Sunday, giving up five hits and walking five. His trademark changeup was so erratic that he scrapped it early and leaned heavily on his fastball, slider and curveball through the middle innings.
By that point, Lincecum had been provided a healthy lead, but he nearly didn't stay on the mound long enough to factor into the win. Lincecum loaded the bases in the first inning and gave up a run as manager Bruce Bochy had long reliever Shane Loux start to warm up in the bullpen.
But Lincecum got a fly out to escape the jam.
"I'll be honest, that was a long first
The Rockies' only other threat against Lincecum came in the fourth, when they had runners on second and third with one out. He got Dexter Fowler to fly out to left field, and Melky Cabrera threw out Wilin Rosario with a one-hop strike to catcher Hector Sanchez.
Lincecum's first half qualified as one long, extended tough stretch. The Giants were 4-14 with their ace on the mound before the All-Star break, but they've won four of Lincecum's five second-half starts, including two on the road. If they keep hitting like this away from AT&T Park, Lincecum should have plenty more opportunities to pick up road victories.
The Giants racked up 12 more hits Sunday and finished the three-game series with 35 runs and 45 hits. Offensive contributions came from all corners of the roster over the weekend, but few run-scoring hits were more encouraging than Hunter Pence's RBI doubles on Sunday.
The trade deadline acquisition had gotten off to a slow start in his first week in orange and black, but he drove in three runs Sunday and had three doubles and four RBIs in the series.
Told that the Giants had been having trouble getting clutch hits, Pence smiled. "We'll do something about that," he said.
Pence should have plenty of opportunities to keep contributing. Bochy's lineup has Pence hitting behind Melky Cabrera, who leads the National League in runs, and Buster Posey, who was 8 for 15 with two homers and seven RBIs in the sweep.
"It's really been ridiculous how many at-bats I've had with a runner on ever since I've been here," Pence said. "I'm looking forward to more of it."
The hitters are certainly looking forward to the Giants' remaining visit to Coors Field this season, but Bochy might have a hard time coaxing his relievers to get on the plane to Denver when the schedule brings the Giants back in September. A day after using six pitchers to get through an 11-6 win, Bochy needed five relievers to get the final nine outs. None of them pitched better than Sergio Romo, who came in with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and struck out Matt McBride and Rosario.
Romo, who twice was rocked on the last homestand, came back out for a perfect eighth inning to lower his road ERA to 0.48.
"That's uplifting for the club and for him," Bochy said of Romo's outing. "It looks like he's back on track."
After a 3-7 homestand, the Giants themselves are certainly back on track. The sweep kept them in first place as they head to St. Louis for a four-game series with the defending World Series champions.
"We've done a lot of good things this series," Pence said. "Now it's time to put the pedal to the metal."
Sandoval has been taking grounders at third base and is said to be running at about 70 percent effort.
Giants (Matt Cain 10-4) at St. Louis (Jake Westbrook 10-8), 5:15 p.m. CSNBA