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Padres fall victim to Giants' ace

Padres fall victim to Giants' ace

SAN FRANCISCO -- The sample size might not be too much to look at, but Cha Seung Baek's appraisal of Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum on Friday compared favorably to the Padres' hitters, who have a more deep-rooted history with the right-handed wunderkind.

"Amazing," Baek said.

No, Baek, the Padres starting pitcher at AT&T Park, had not seen as much of Lincecum as his teammates, who have had the displeasure of facing the 14-game winner five times this season with possibly one more meeting on the schedule in September.

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But much like his teammates, Baek got his fill of Lincecum in the Padres' 5-0 loss to the Giants before a crowd of 33,615 that seemed to hang on each pitch Lincecum tossed in a blissful outing that included eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.

"He is," Padres manager Bud Black said, "pretty damn good."

Lincecum (14-3) lowered his ERA to a scant 2.48 -- and just 0.79 in five starts against the Padres this season -- by relying more on his curveball and changeup and not just the mid-90s fastball that served him well during his rookie season.

In other words, Lincecum continues to evolve as a pitcher and no matter how many times the Padres (48-80) face him, they can't seem to get a handle on what is coming at them -- and it has shown in their results.

"He's one of the top guys in the game and from what I have seen, there's only one or two guys in the same ballpark as far as his stuff," said Padres left fielder Chase Headley, who had one of the Padres' four hits, a double.

"Everyone who has seen him has said he's getting better, throwing his off-speed pitches more for strikes. He mixes it up well."

Lincecum became the ninth pitcher in San Francisco history to reach 200 strikeouts when he struck out rookie catcher Nick Hundley to end the seventh inning. The 24-year-old leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts and ranks third in ERA.

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Oh, and this was just the 50th start of his Major League career.

"At this stage of the season to have 200 strikeouts, it tells you the incredible stuff he has," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He can throw any pitch at any time. He was on top of his game with all his pitches."

The same couldn't be said for Baek (4-8), though he did finish with eight strikeouts over seven innings.

Baek is one of the few pitchers on the Padres staff who actually pitches better away from PETCO Park. He went into Friday's start against the Giants with a 4-0 record and a 3.72 ERA on the road and, for three innings at least, did nothing to tarnish his road success.

Baek opened the game with three scoreless innings but ran into trouble in the fourth when the Giants (56-72) scored all five of their runs. Baek left a first-pitch fastball up and out over the plate, and Bengie Molina doubled to left-center field.

Three batters later, Baek tried to get Travis Ishikawa to hit a ball on the ground when he fired a two-seam fastball away to the left-handed batter. But the ball remained too far up in the strike zone and Ishikawa drove it out the other way for a three-run home run.

"It was a good swing," Baek said of Ishikawa's home run.

Really, it was one of the few good swings of the night on either side. The Padres, who on Thursday didn't score a run in seven innings against Arizona's Brandon Webb, certainly didn't do much with the bat as they were shut out for the 10th time this season.

"The one thing that we talked about in Spring Training is the quality of pitching in this division," Black said. "He's [Lincecum] at the top of the list."

Corey Brock 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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