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Dodgers can't solve Giants ace

Dodgers can't solve Giants ace

LOS ANGELES -- The standings show a three-game spread, but the real difference between the first-place Giants and the trailing Dodgers is Tim Lincecum.

The Giants have an ace. The Dodgers don't, and they'll just have to deal with it. On Saturday, that meant a 9-0 San Francisco win over a split squad of Dodgers and their knuckleballing fifth starter, Charlie Haeger.

Against a lineup without Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin, Lincecum scattered four hits over six innings and didn't allow a Dodger past second base.

What really impressed the Dodgers was that, even by their own admission, Lincecum didn't look like a two-time Cy Young winner. Yet, he handily beat an offense that averaged 6.8 runs over the first 10 games. He even drove in three runs with three hits.

"His velocity is down a little bit, but he's still a darn good pitcher," said Matt Kemp, who finally legged out an infield single after starting his career 1-for-14 with eight strikeouts against the right-hander.

"He's got a funky little motion and hides the ball real well. You see a lot of people, especially me, swing through a 90-mph fastball. That's average velocity, but with his motion it's hard to pick up. Then it's like, how did I miss that pitch? And when he can't throw a fastball for a strike, he can throw the changeup or the curve for a strike."

Offensively, Lincecum had three hits, but like the Dodgers he couldn't get past second base, one time causing so much confusion with his baserunning that the umpires blew a call and later said so.

Not that the Giants needed any help from the umpires. They chased Haeger in the fourth inning and had all they needed with Lincecum.

"It's hard to give him that kind of lead. We didn't play very well and he knows how to pitch with a lead," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "He threw a lot of pitches. But you're going to have to stay close to him to beat him. We didn't do a good job of that."

Haeger struck out a dozen winning in Florida on Sunday, but since then appeared in one game in relief and was warming up for another. He issued two of his five walks in the first inning Saturday and the first run scored when second baseman Blake DeWitt vacated his position too soon on Lincecum's firm bunt single in the second inning.

Four more runs scored in an ugly third inning that included errors by catcher A.J. Ellis and shortstop Jamey Carroll, a walk, a hit batter and a two-run single by Lincecum.

"The whole outing was just awful," said Haeger, charged with seven runs (five earned) in three-plus innings with five walks, three strikeouts and the hit batter. "Just a pathetic performance, really, just overall. It's one of those outings, there's nothing I really can take from that, nothing positive. Just wipe it out of the memory and come in tomorrow with a clean slate and get back to work. It's just one of those awful days. Pathetic performance -- that's the only way I can describe it."

Lacking command of the knuckler, Haeger fell behind in counts and was forced to throw fastballs, which at 83 mph are hittable even by opposing pitchers.

"I think we weren't able to establish it for strikes early in the game and they picked up on that and were really selective, and we just weren't able to make the adjustment," said Ellis, who had two hits, as did Carroll.

Haeger threw a staggering 96 pitches in three-plus innings. Torre, however, was not nearly as hard on Haeger as the pitcher was on himself.

"In all fairness to Charlie, we had him warming up the other night, we brought him in the other game, we asked him to do a lot this week," said Torre. "I have to give him a hall pass."

Nonetheless, Haeger's early departure meant another heavy workload for the beleaguered bullpen. Ramon Ortiz was the only one of four relievers to allow any runs (two). Russ Ortiz rebounded with a scoreless inning, Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios had two scoreless innings and George Sherrill pitched one perfect inning.

Sherrill has been the opposite of perfect for most of this season, so even though it was the ninth inning of a blowout, it probably was the best thing that happened to the Dodgers all day.

"He was good," said Torre. "He had a low pitch count and threw all his pitches."

Sherrill has spent two months trying to isolate mechanical flaws and fix them.

"I'm done looking at video," he said. "I've gotten to the point where I know where my arm needs to be in my delivery. Today it wasn't perfect, but it was close."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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