His hair short and his fastball in the mid-80s, Tim Lincecum doesn’t look like Tim Lincecum and didn’t pitch like Tim Lincecum at AT&T Park on Tuesday night.
It didn’t matter.
The Dodgers couldn’t do much against this 30-year-old version of the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who ended the National League West leaders’ seven-game winning streak by limiting them to a run and five hits over the first six innings of a 6-2 victory for the last-place San Francisco Giants.
By striking out five batters and forcing four double plays, Lincecum became the rare starting pitcher whom the Dodgers were unable to wear down.
About the only player who was a real threat to Lincecum was Yasiel Puig, who returned to the lineup after missing four of the previous five games because of a sore left hamstring. Puig singled twice off Lincecum, raising his career average against the diminutive right-hander to .588.
“I thought we helped him a little bit,” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said of Lincecum. “He’s the type of guy you have to get up in the strike zone. We had guys out there.
The Dodgers have rarely offered as little resistance against a starting pitcher this season as they did on this night. Of the 12 previous starters they faced, seven pitched five or fewer innings.
“We’re deeper, we’re longer, we’re better,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said.
The only opposing starter who has pitched into the seventh inning was James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners, who lasted 6 1/3 innings on April 13. Paxton was charged with five runs in that game, which the Dodgers won, 6-5.
Clayton Kershaw, who is scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Wednesday, said, “You see guys having 100 pitches through five innings. It’s fun to be a pitcher on the other side.”
The Dodgers went into Tuesday as the National League leaders in batting average (.288), on-base percentage (.368) and runs per game (5.25).
They were also drawing walks in 10.7% of their plate appearances, the highest percentage in the league.
“We’ve been having really good at-bats, deep at-bats, not giving away any outs,” Gonzalez said. “It’s part of our thing this year, where you give the pitcher eight tough outs, where you’re not giving anything away. They have to continue to make quality pitches, which makes it really hard for them.”
Lincecum, known as “The Freak” during his wild-haired Cy Young heyday in 2008 and ’09, was in the 86-88-mph range with his fastball most of this night. But he limited his pitch count with the help of double plays, starting with the one Gonzalez lined into in the first inning following a single by Puig.
With Yasmani Grandal hitting into another double play in the second, Lincecum’s pitch count was at 23 through two innings. That figure was still a modest 85 when Lincecum was removed from the game for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth.
“We erased a few of those innings with the two-ball,” Mattingly said. “We were kind of a big hit away.”
Dodgers starting pitcher Brett Anderson drew the first walk of his seven-year career to put men on first and second with one out in the third inning, only for Jimmy Rollins to fly out to right field and Puig to pop up to short.
The Giants’ lead expanded to 2-0 in the bottom half of that inning on Buster Posey’s run-scoring single.
The Dodgers’ only run against Lincecum came in the fifth inning, when Juan Uribe scored on a pinch-hit double by Alex Guerrero to narrow their deficit to 4-1.
But they did threaten in the ninth, loading the bases with two outs and compelling Giants Manager Bruce Bochy to bring in closer Santiago Casilla, who wild-pitched the Dodgers’ second run home before retiring Justin Turner to end it.
“I thought we were still working at-bats,” Mattingly said. “That’s one thing we’ve talked about, fighting until the end.”
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez