Lincecum fans 14 Braves, Giants take NLDS opener, 1-0

Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter. Tim Lincecum might have done him one better.

Not in the headlines, of course. In degree of difficulty, however, Lincecum might have aced his rival ace.

Lincecum pitched a two-hit complete game and struck out 14, carrying the San Francisco Giants to a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League division series Thursday. The 14 strikeouts set a postseason record for the Giants franchise.

Halladay got four runs of support in his no-hitter, all in the first two innings. Lincecum, with no margin for error, reminded the nation that he—not Halladay, and not Cliff Lee—is the pitcher with back-to-back Cy Young awards on his resume.

In his postseason debut—and in the Giants’ first playoff game in seven years—Lincecum dominated from start to finish. With the crowd on its feet and waving orange rally towels throughout the ninth inning—from the time he came out of the dugout and headed back to the mound—Lincecum retired the top of the Atlanta lineup in order.

With his 119th and final pitch—a 92 mph fastball—Lincecum struck out Derrek Lee for the third time.

He struck out five consecutive batters at one point, he did not allow a hit between the first and seventh innings and he never permitted a runner to reach third base.

All of that might not have been enough for Lincecum, if only the Braves had Chipper Jones at third base.

By starting Derek Lowe in Game 1, the Braves gambled that their weakness would not be exposed. They lost, and painfully so.

As a sinkerball specialist, Lowe relies on his infielders. The Braves started Omar Infante at third base in place of the injured Jones, with Brooks Conrad at second base in place of the injured Martin Prado, and the ground balls found the subs.

In the third inning, Conrad had a ground ball go off his foot instead of his glove, his fifth error in five games. No harm done, except for the extra pitches Lowe had to make to get out of the inning.

In the fourth inning, the Giants had runners on first and second and two out. Cody Ross tapped a ground ball toward third base, but Infante could not get in front of the ball, and it took a hop on him as he tried to field it to his side.

Buster Posey scored from second base, with what turned out to be the lone run of the game.

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