Lincecum strong through 7 to propel Giants past Dodgers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Considering where Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants stood 12 days earlier, the right-hander was grateful to head into May with his game back on track and his club back at .500.

Lincecum allowed six hits and struck out eight while pitching into the eighth inning, and Bengie Molina drove in four runs in the Giants' 9-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

Molina had a homer, a two-run triple and an RBI single among the Giants' season-high 15 hits, while Edgar Renteria had four hits and drove in two runs in their eighth win in 11 games. San Francisco has roared back from a 2-7 start to the season with ample help from Lincecum, who dramatically snapped back into his 2008 form in his last three starts.

Lincecum (2-1) didn't allow a run in the first seven innings, improving to 3-0 in four career starts against the Giants' biggest rivals. He retired the first 10 batters and rarely faced trouble until Los Angeles' three-run rally in the eighth, but the bullpen finished San Francisco's second win in the three-game series.

"You always think the Dodgers are going to be a little bigger, because of the rivalry," Lincecum said. "But you always want to try to do the same things. ... Everything felt fine. Pitches were moving the way they were supposed to."

After a bumpy start to his defense of his NL Cy Young Award, Lincecum has struck out 33 in 23 innings while allowing just four runs and 16 hits in those three starts. He even survived his first chance to pitch against Manny Ramirez, who reached base twice but couldn't get the Dodgers' offense going.

"We started to pick up on him later, but it was too late by then," said Juan Pierre, who had two hits while batting ninth in the Dodgers' unusual lineup configuration. "He's a bulldog. He's guy you have to beat. Tonight he got some runs early, and we couldn't get to him early enough."

Los Angeles rallied in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 5-3 victory, but the Giants replied with one of their most comprehensive efforts of the season while their freezing fans amused themselves by shouting down the few Dodgers faithful at their waterfront ballpark.

"Especially after a tough loss, it's important that you wash them off," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "It started with Timmy on the mound, but the offense really came alive. Especially after that little losing skid, it was important to be resilient in this game."

Eric Stults (2-1) yielded five runs and seven hits while failing to get out of the third inning for the Dodgers, who closed their nine-game road trip with three losses in four games.

"He just couldn't throw the ball where he wanted to throw it," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who might have to recall a pitcher from Triple-A before Thursday's home game against San Diego. "He's all about command. He's not overpowering. He just wasn't able to command his pitches tonight. He had a good curveball, but his other stuff wasn't there."

Torre put Stults in the eighth spot in his lineup and hit Pierre ninth, making the move for the first time in his nearly three decades of managing in the majors. Torre thinks the stratagem, used regularly by St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, will create more chances for Pierre to steal bases and more RBI chances for Ramirez.

The plan didn't pay off until the eighth inning, when Pierre hit a leadoff single and scored the Dodgers' first run on Orlando Hudson's broken-bat double. Lincecum left after walking Ramirez to load the bases, and Los Angeles scored two runs with Jeremy Affeldt on the mound before closer Brian Wilson got Casey Blake on a foul pop.

Wilson gave up Pierre's RBI double in the ninth, but got his fifth save in six chances.

Game notes
The Dodgers open an 11-game homestand, their longest of the season, Thursday night against San Diego. Los Angeles is 6-0 at Dodger Stadium this season, but has played fewer home games than any team except the Yankees. ... Molina's triple was his first since May 23, 2007, and just the fifth in 4,016 career at-bats for the portly catcher. He hit his fourth homer of the season in the seventh.