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Braves helpless against Giants' strikeout machine

It's sort of hard to believe that Tim Lincecum threw only one shutout during the regular season.

But then, shutouts are something of a lost art. Last year Lincecum threw only two shutouts ... and tied for the National League lead (with four other pitchers). Because Lincecum's a strikeout pitcher, he tends to throw a fair number of pitches. And because Lincecum's both relatively young and relatively slight, his manager won't let him throw more than around 120 pitches.

Make no mistake, though: Lincecum is a strikeout pitcher, and nobody should be shocked that he set a Giants postseason record with 14 strikeouts against the Braves Thursday night.

These Braves, especially. While the Braves were a pretty good offensive team this season and not particularly strikeout-prone, their lineup took a hit in August when Chipper Jones (.381 OBP) went down, and another in September when Martin Prado (.350) was lost. Meanwhile, additions to the lineup have included Brooks Conrad (.324 OBP), Alex Gonzalez (.291) and Rick Ankiel (.324) ... all of whom went hitless against Lincecum in Game 1.

Then again, it might not have mattered much who was in the lineup.

Lincecum isn't going to win a third straight Cy Young Award. He did, for the third straight season, pace the National League in strikeouts. His control wasn't quite as sharp as it was last year, but essentially the biggest difference between this season and his two Cy Young seasons was eight fly balls.

Last season, Lincecum gave up only 10 home runs. This season, he gave up 18 home runs. Which goes a long way toward explaining why his ERA jumped nearly a full run this season.

Fundamentally, though? He's still the same pitcher who was the best in the National League until Roy Halladay joined the Phillies.

Coming into this series, it was fair to wonder if the Giants had enough weapons against the Braves' right-handed starting pitchers. Well, they seem to have enough when Lincecum's pitching. Because the Braves clearly don't have enough weapons against the Giants' right-handed strikeout machine.