SAN FRANCISCO - This series looked so promising for the Twins -- for an inning.
They opened their three-game set with the Giants with a record eight-run outburst Tuesday. But the Twins' momentum was halted Wednesday, and Tim Lincecum finished them off Thursday with seven overpowering innings in a 2-1 San Francisco victory at AT&T Park.
The floppy-haired righthander had struggled in his recent starts, but Thursday he evoked memories of his National League Cy Young Award-winning seasons of 2008 and '09. He held the Twins to three hits and two walks while striking out 12, all swinging. Nine of the last 10 outs he recorded were strikeouts.
"He's a Cy Young Award winner for a reason," Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said.
Said Twins lefthander Brian Duensing, who struck out twice against Lincecum: "I don't know how he does it. Pitching lessons, or something."
This came hours after righthander Ryan Vogelsong shut the Twins down during the Giants' 5-1 victory Wednesday night.
After the Twins tied a major league record by starting Tuesday's game with eight consecutive hits and scoring eight first-inning runs, they hit .160 (15-for-94) the rest of the series and scored a total of three runs.
Their run of five consecutive series victories is over. They lost back-to-back games for the first time since getting swept in three games at Detroit May 30-June 1.
No Twins hitter had faced Lincecum before, and it's safe to assume that the Twins still aren't sure what Lincecum throws.
"He has a nice split or changeup or whatever it is that just dives off the table," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
He got ahead of hitters -- many of whom swung and missed early in the count -- then put them away with a changeup or slider.
"The first [at-bat] I told myself I'd probably get a couple fastballs, which he did," said Duensing, who had only three major league at-bats coming into Thursday. "Then I thought [the next pitch] was a slider but they were changeups, which shows how much pitch recognition I have."
Cuddyer wasn't sure at first either.
"He throws the slider at about 85 [miles per hour]," he said. "People think it's a changeup but it's really a slider. ... I thought the same thing before facing him."
Duensing kept the Twins in the game with 6 2/3 strong innings. The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second on a RBI groundout by Miguel Tejada set up by Pablo Sandoval's single and Pat Burrell's double. In the eighth inning, San Francisco greeted Glen Perkins with a leadoff double by Aubrey Huff followed by an RBI single by Cody Ross to make it 2-0.
The Twins got a run off closer Brian Wilson in the ninth when Cuddyer's second double of the game drove in Alexi Casilla. With no outs, Delmon Young needed to at least get Cuddyer over to third but struck out. Danny Valencia then flied out to left on a ball Cuddyer might have been able to score on had he been at third.
Luke Hughes grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game.
The Twins now head to Milwaukee. Runs might be hard to come by there as well, with Randy Wolf, Yovani Gallardo and Chris Narveson scheduled to face them. They can't blow scoring opportunities like they did in the ninth inning Thursday.
"We lost, which is disapppointing," Duensing said, "but I thought we played a pretty decent game."