Each time he takes the mound, Tim Lincecum is becoming more comfortable again. More trusting that his command will carry him just like it used to every fifth day.
Lincecum pitched San Francisco one win closer to an NL West crown, and the Giants lowered their magic number to clinch the division to seven with a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
Lincecum (10-14) struck out six and walked two in 6 1-3 scoreless innings on a day the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers were postponed by rain in Washington. He was fighting a constant cough that came on during the weekend in the dry desert air of Arizona.
When Lincecum reached his low point this summer, he started taking a "nothing to lose" approach.
"I know it's been a long year. You never stop working," Lincecum said. "I feel like I'm getting back to that point. I still feel like I'm grinding a little bit, but those harder situations are getting a little bit easier to get out of."
Marco Scutaro had three singles, drove in a run and scored twice and Xavier Nady had two RBI singles for the Giants (85-63), who moved a season-high 22 games over .500. Pablo Sandoval added two hits, including a double, and Hunter Pence added a sacrifice fly.
Wilin Rosario hit a two-run homer off Santiago Casilla in the eighth inning, matching the Rockies' rookie record of 25 set by Todd Helton in 1998.
Angel Pagan extended his own San Francisco record with an RBI triple in the eighth, his major league-leading 14th. He tipped his batting helmet from third base to acknowledge the cheering crowd.
Following a walk to D.J. LeMahieu in the second inning, Lincecum retired the next 11 batters in order before Dexter Fowler's leadoff walk in the sixth. What happened next is rarely seen: Fowler was out at second on a fielder's choice as the ball bounced off his batting helmet on shortstop Brandon Crawford's throw to first attempting to get Charlie Blackmon for a double play. Blackmon was then caught stealing.
Lincecum improved to just 4-8 with a 3.67 ERA at home this season, but he sure looked like his old stellar self for a significant stretch on this cool September night — albeit with three of Colorado's best hitters out injured.
After beating the Rockies last Wednesday at Coors Field, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner posted consecutive victories for the first time since April 23 and 28. He also won his third straight decision.
"That's the Timmy that we know, and we're going to need him down the stretch," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Timmy's tough when he's on his game, and he's on it right now."
Rookie Hector Sanchez, who has caught Lincecum most of the season, doubled, singled and scored a run. With him behind the plate, Buster Posey started at first base.
When Posey drew an intentional walk in the third, many in the sellout crowd of 41,718 chanted "M-V-P! M-V-P!" He drew another one in the seventh, drawing boos.
Fans jumped to their feet to give Lincecum a standing ovation when he gave way to Jeremy Affeldt in the seventh. Lincecum allowed an infield single to pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge that loaded the bases, then Affeldt got pinch-hitter Jason Giambi to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"They just beat us tonight," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We battled them. We had a great opportunity, as good as you can have, bases loaded, one out in the seventh, and a good matchup for us. We just hit into a double play."
Lincecum became the seventh pitcher in San Francisco history to win 10 or more games in five straight seasons.
Sergio Romo allowed pinch-hitter Matt McBride's two-out RBI single in the ninth for Colorado's last run.
Jeff Francis (5-6) lost consecutive starts for just the second time all season and his winless stretch reached four outings since he beat the Dodgers on Aug. 27.
The lefty matched up against Lincecum for the second time in as many starts. He allowed two runs and six hits in five innings, struck out three and walked one.
Colorado lost for the 12th time in its last 16 games at San Francisco.
Pagan appeared to be ejected by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez when he flipped his bat after a called third strike to end the sixth. Hernandez signaled and an arguing Pagan had to be escorted off the field by Bochy. But he took his position in center field moments later. The hand signal was actually a fine for an equipment violation.
"I thought I got tossed, and I was asking 'Why did you toss me?'" Pagan said. "I didn't think I did anything wrong. Just three outs, I flipped my bat and was going to flip my helmet and get my stuff to go to center field. It was as simple as that. I wasn't showing anybody up."
Carlos Gonzalez was a late scratch for the Rockies with tightness in his left hamstring. The left fielder tested his leg with some running before the game but didn't feel right. Tracy didn't want to risk further problems by playing the slugger, especially on a night when first-pitch temperature was 58 degrees.
"It didn't go very well," said Gonzalez, who is expected to play Wednesday night in the third game of the four-game series.
Notes: Scutaro — who began the season with the Rockies — has 52 multihit games, tying him with suspended teammate Melky Cabrera for second-most in the NL. Scutaro has 20 in his last 32. ... Colorado fell to 2-5 at the Giants' waterfront ballpark in 2012. ... Pence has 95 RBIs in all this season and 36 for the Giants, most for the club since he arrived from the Phillies at the trade deadline. ... Matt Cain, who pitched a perfect game June 13 against the Astros, is the Giants nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. ... Giambi hopes to play in 2013. "If I get a job next year, I'll play," he said. "I hope so."