KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tim Lincecum got off to a slow start and never recovered. It’s turning into a disturbing trend for the San Francisco Giants.
Lincecum was knocked out in the fourth inning and the Giants went on to a 7-4 loss to the Royals on Sunday. While Kansas City is challenging Detroit for the AL Central lead, San Francisco has lost four in a row and five of six.
Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, was charged with six runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings. Four of the runs came in the first, including Alex Gordon’s two-run homer.
“It was an uphill climb after the start we got off to,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It was Lincecum’s command. He was all over the board. When he threw a strike or threw an off-speed pitch it was up. He regrouped, but it’s tough when you get down four runs.”
Lincecum (9-8) was yanked after 73 pitches. He has lasted 4 1-3 innings or fewer in three of his last four starts.
“You just see how far you can go to give your team a chance to fight back and get in the game,” Lincecum said about the four-run first.
Lincecum, who pitched a no-hitter against San Diego on June 25, is winless since July 11. He has a 10.59 ERA in his past four starts, giving up 20 runs and 28 hits in 17 innings.
The Royals had five of their seven steals when Lincecum was on the mound.
“I just didn’t do a good job of managing the baserunners,” Lincecum said. “Next time I have to do a better job of being cognizant of the runners on base. I didn’t execute a lot of pitches, especially with runners on base. That’s my responsibility. It’s under my control.”
Rookie catcher Andrew Susac also accepted some of the blame for the Royals’ stolen bases.
“I had a lot of trouble gripping the ball,” Susac said. “I’m sweating and I’m looking out at him (Lincecum) and he’s sweating. The ball gets slippery. You try to figure out a way to stop the sweating. From my perspective, your hands are so freaking wet that you can’t grip the ball.”
Salvador Perez also homered and Danny Duffy pitched into the seventh inning as the Royals earned their seventh consecutive win.
Kansas City, which won 10 in a row in June, has put together two winning streaks of seven or more games this season for the first time since 1985, the last time it was in the playoffs.
Perez homered off Juan Gutierrez with Nori Aoki aboard in a three-run fourth. Aoki reached base four times — two walks and two singles — and stole three bases.
Jarrod Dyson went 3 for 3 and also swiped three bases. The Royals’ seven steals were one shy of the club record set on Aug. 1, 1998.
Duffy (7-10) allowed four runs and three hits in 6 2-3 innings in winning back-to-back starts for the first time this season. He walked two in the seventh and both scored on Susac’s double.
Wade Davis pitched a scoreless eighth and Greg Holland worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth while picking up his American League-leading 34th save in 36 opportunities.
Giants: After an off day Monday, right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who has won his past two starts, will pitch Tuesday against the White Sox, the only big league team he has never faced.
Royals: Rookie Yordano Ventura starts the opener of a four-game series with Oakland. Ventura is 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA this season at home.
Giants: Michael Morse was a late scratch with an ingrown toenail. Gregor Blanco replaced him in left field.
Royals: Luke Hochevar, who had Tommy John surgery in spring training, will begin a throwing program on Sept. 10.
A GIANT MOVE
The Giants recalled first baseman Adam Duvall from Triple-A Fresno. Duvall was among the Pacific Coast League leaders with 26 homers, 84 RBIs and a .596 slugging percentage at the time of the promotion.
Outfielder Juan Perez was sent down to Fresno.
PEDRO REMAINS HOT
San Francisco slugger Pedro Sandoval singled in the second and has reached base in 11 consecutive games. He is hitting .364 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in that span.