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Reds, Giants open 4-game set Thursday

SAN FRANCISCO (JOHN KOSIK/STATS/AP) -- The San Francisco Giants have let a comfortable NL West lead vanish and the starting rotation definitely shares some of the blame.

Perhaps it can find some inspiration in Tim Lincecum's latest performance.

First up is Ryan Vogelsong, who will try to win back-to-back starts for the first time in over a month when he takes the hill in the opener of a four-game set against the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park on Thursday night.

The Giants were a major league-best 42-21 on June 8 and led the Los Angeles Dodgers by 9 1/2 games. What followed, though, was a 3-11 stretch that included a six-game losing streak, a 5.63 starting ERA and a total of 75 runs allowed.

Manager Bruce Bochy told MLB's official website that he and pitching coach Dave Righetti met with the starters Tuesday to address the recent issues that contributed to San Francisco (46-32) now holding just a three-game edge over the Dodgers.

"You're always working to try to get them out of a funk (and build) their confidence," Bochy said of his rotation. "That's ongoing."

Whatever was said seemed to work for Lincecum, who wasn't overly dominant yet still recorded his second career no-hitter and second against San Diego in a 4-0 victory.

"It was not a stuff day. It was more of a location day," said Lincecum, who struck out six and walked one in the majors' third no-hitter of 2014.

Lincecum joined Hall of Famer Addie Joss as the only pitchers to no-hit the same team twice - the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner also shut down the Padres last July 13 - but his outing came against the weakest hitting team in the big leagues.

Slowing the Reds (39-38), who have 15 homers and 87 runs scored during a 10-4 stretch, may be a tougher task for Vogelsong (5-3, 4.13 ERA). The right-hander is 1-1 with a 7.31 ERA in his last three starts and hasn't gone more than five innings in his previous two.

Vogelsong did enough to get a win in his last outing, allowing four runs and five hits over five innings in a 6-4 victory over Arizona on Saturday.

He had one of his better starts at Cincinnati on June 4, striking out a career-high nine and allowing two runs over 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 victory. In five starts against the Reds since 2011, he is 1-0 with a 3.73 ERA.

That recent outing preceded Reds first baseman Joey Votto's return from the disabled list, and though the slugger hasn't homered and is batting .286 since coming back, the Reds are no doubt much more imposing with both Votto and Jay Bruce in the lineup.

Bruce hit a pair of run-scoring doubles Wednesday and Mat Latos pitched seven sharp innings for his first win in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Catcher Devin Mesoraco's five-game homer streak ended, however, while second baseman Brandon Phillips missed his third straight game with a bruised right heel.

"It's a tough lineup," Cubs starter Edwin Jackson said of the Reds. "They're going to make you work."

A big beneficiary of the Reds' suddenly potent offense has been right-hander Mike Leake (5-6, 3.59), who will start the opener against the Giants after winning his last two starts while receiving 16 runs of support.

Leake didn't need the backing he got Saturday, working eight innings and giving up one run on four hits in an 11-1 win over Toronto. He won four straight starts against the Giants from 2011-2013 before giving up five runs in five innings of a 6-1 loss June 5.
 

 

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