Washington Nationals 9, San Francisco Giants 3: What to do about Tim Lincecum?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum watches from the bench after he was pulled in the fourth inning of a baseball game with the Washington National, Tuesday, July 3, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

BOX SCORE

Just when we thought Tim Lincecum had turned the corner on his ugly 2012 season, the Freak went and made a U-turn in our nation’s capital.

Lincecum was tagged for a career-high eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings in a hot, humid night in Washington. Lincecum threw 87 pitches, 48 for strikes.

By comparison, the four pitchers who relieved Lincecum gave up one run on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. George Kontos, Clay Hensley, Brad Penny and Javier Lopez threw a combined 71 pitches, 51 for strikes.

Now, Lincecum is 3-9 with a 6.08 ERA.

Lincecum and Bruce Bochy tried to blame Washington’s hot humid weather in the mid-90s for sapping Lincecum of his strength combined with a rapidly climbing pitch count and advantageous Nationals hitters.

It left many Giants fans wondering if Lincecum has returned to square run after encouraging outings against the A’s and Dodgers in his last two starts.

They are also wondering what are the Giants to do with their former two-time Cy Young winner.

The answer is simple: Nothing.

Bochy said Lincecum will make his next scheduled start Sunday in Pittsburgh before the All-Star break. It’s the right move because there aren’t a lot of better options right now than to hope Lincecum finds his groove again.

The good news for the Giants and Lincecum is the Pirates are 15th in the National League in hitting. The forecast for this weekend in Pittsburgh calls for a high of 100 on Friday, but then cooling to 87 by Sunday.

Then comes the All-Star break, which will allow the Giants to reset their rotation. If they do it right, they could help out Lincecum.

The best spot to start him is in the No. 3 spot in the rotation, which will give him a home start against the Astros on July 15, a game at the Phillies on July 21, then home games on July 27 vs. the Dodgers and Aug. 1 vs. the Mets.

Another option is the No. 5 spot. That would result in a start at the Braves (July 18) then home vs. the Padres (July 23) and Dodgers (July 29). But that would also align him for a start at Colorado on Aug. 3.

The No. 4 spot is the worst, starting with back-to-back hot-weather starts in Atlanta and Philadelphia.

But if by the end of July, there is not marked improvement, the Giants could consider Brad Penny as a rotation replacement. He’s looked solid so far in two relief outings.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

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