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First-inning struggles continue for Lincecum

Tim Lincecum couldn't find his rhythm or the strike zone in the first inning. That's become a troubling trend for the San Francisco pitcher, with the results all too predictable.

Lincecum fell behind in the count to six of the first seven batters he faced and gave up two runs in the opening frame Sunday, which has statistically been his worst inning this season.

That he pitched well afterward seemed almost immaterial following the Giants' second straight defeat at home.

"He was fighting himself quite a bit," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said following a 7-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. "I don't know if he was over-amped that first inning, but he just had trouble getting the ball where he wanted. He got settled in a little bit but it was a little late."

Lincecum (7-14) needed 32 pitches to get out of the first inning en route to his career-worst 14th loss of the season.

The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, who walked two and struck out four, also gave up a solo home run to Juan Francisco in the fourth before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.

Those have been Lincecum's worst innings this season. He's given up 25 runs in the first and 24 in the fourth. Both of his walks came within the first four batters of the game.

"My rhythm was just off in the first inning," Lincecum said. "I was just getting behind on batters, 2-0 on pretty much everybody, and wasn't really attacking the zone, which led to those runs."

Brandon Crawford drove in the only run for the Giants, who dropped their second straight since winning five in a row. Hunter Pence had three hits and Buster Posey two.

Tim Hudson pitched seven strong innings for his seventh consecutive victory and Paul Janish tripled home two runs for Atlanta.

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves, who won their second in a row after losing six of seven. Martin Prado and Brian McCann also drove in runs for the NL wild-card leaders.

Hudson (13-4) gave up five hits and beat the Giants for the sixth straight time. He walked one and struck out three. The right-hander has not lost since July 1.

"I even had a hard time picking (the ball) up when I was at the plate, and I only had to bunt," Lincecum said. "He was hitting his spots. He didn't really miss anything out over the middle of the plate. Everything was on the corners or down."

Prado had an RBI groundout in the first and McCann added a run-scoring single for one of his three hits.

Francisco's home run put Atlanta up 3-0 in the fourth and Janish's first triple of the year — the second of his career — made it 5-0 in the sixth.

The Giants loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, scoring on Crawford's sacrifice fly.

"It could have been a different game if I don't make pitches," Hudson said.

Heyward and Freeman homered on successive pitches from Clay Hensley in the ninth. Heyward, who has connected in three straight games, has been involved in all three back-to-back home runs for the Braves this season.

Heyward has six home runs and 12 RBIs in 10 career games at AT&T Park, where he is hitting .395 (15 for 38).

"He has to move out here, work on that home run swing during the offseason and then come hit in Turner Park," Hudson said.

NOTES: Braves 3B Chipper Jones received a standing ovation in what might have been his final at-bat at AT&T Park. He grounded out to shortstop. ... RHP Matt Cain (13-5, 2.83) pitches for the Giants at Houston on Monday. Cain is 2-0 against the Astros this season, which includes his perfect game. ... San Francisco RHP Eric Hacker was optioned to Triple-A Fresno following Saturday night's game. The Giants recalled C Eli Whiteside to take his place. ... Posey has reached base with a hit or walk in 34 of his 38 games since the All-Star break.