By JOE RESNICK
LOS ANGELES — When a pitcher with Tim Lincecum’s credentials is attempting a bounce-back season and wins his first start, style points are unimportant.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner walked seven, matching a career worst, yet still managed to get the win when Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence homered to lead the San Francisco Giants to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night in the rubber game of their season-opening series.
“You never really expect to get seven walks and come out with a win, but I was fortunate to be on the winning end of that,” Lincecum said. “I felt like I could have pitched a lot better.”
Lincecum threw 91 pitches in five innings, but limited the Dodgers to two unearned runs and three hits. He struck out four while outperforming Josh Beckett in a matchup of marquee pitchers coming off the worst season of their respective careers.
Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009 and led the NL in strikeouts for three consecutive years. But the right-hander was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA last season then was relegated to bullpen duty in the playoffs — allowing an earned run and three hits in 13 innings with 17 strikeouts.
“If you had said I would end the (regular) season the way I did and not had the postseason that I did, then I would have had a lot more to think about,” Lincecum said.
“There’s really nothing you can take out of what I did in the postseason except confidence and optimism,” he added.
Lincecum, embarking on the final year of a two-year, $40.5 million contract, was the Giants’ opening day pitcher in each of the previous four seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander missed two starts in spring training because of a blister problem and was slotted behind Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the rotation.
“It’s not like a huge burden for me. It’s just more of an expectation,” Lincecum said of his past success. “But for me to stay consistent, I’d have to win Cy Young after Cy Young. It’s definitely out of my control to win a Cy Young, but I definitely want to put up those kind of numbers.”
Beckett (0-1) was charged with five runs, three earned, and six hits in six innings. Carl Crawford had three hits and scored a run for Los Angeles.
Beckett was the World Series MVP with Florida in 2003 and the ALCS MVP with Boston in 2007 — his only 20-win season. But the 32-year-old right-hander was 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA in a combined 28 starts last season with the Red Sox and Dodgers after he was acquired in a blockbuster nine-player trade on Aug. 25.
“I don’t look at it like that,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Ever since we’ve seen Josh over here, he’s been throwing the ball good. Last year he pretty much kept us in every game that he pitched, and he could have had a lot better record better luck if we had put some runs on the board for him. He had a good camp and he’s healthy, so we have no reservations about Josh.”
Pence gave the defending World Series champions a 5-2 cushion in the sixth with a line-drive solo homer to right-center.
“The ball to Pence was a cutter, but I don’t think I got it far enough away from him,” said Beckett, who gave up 14 earned runs over eight innings in his final two starts this spring. “I made some pitches when I needed to, then I didn’t make some when I needed to. But I felt good. I felt like I was getting on top of the ball a little bit better than I was maybe my last couple starts in spring training.”
Jose Mijares relieved Lincecum in the sixth and threw 11 pitches without recording an out. He loaded the bases by hitting Skip Schumaker with a 1-2 pitch that caromed off his shoulder and over the home plate screen.
Matt Kemp, who was 0 for 2 in bases-loaded situations and hitless in four at-bats, grounded into a double play against George Kontos as Mark Ellis scored. Javier Lopez then came in and struck out Adrian Gonzalez.
“With no outs, you definitely want to make Kemp hit the ball on the ground,” Kontos said. “I just approached him the same way I approached him last year.
“It was good for me to get back on track, have a good outing and do my job,” added Kontos, who on opening day got the loss after giving up a go-ahead home run to pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of a game that was scoreless.
San Francisco scored four times in the third to grab a 4-1 lead. Lincecum drove in Gregor Blanco with a groundout and Brandon Crawford scored when second baseman Schumaker booted Angel Pagan’s grounder in the hole for an error. Sandoval then jumped on an eye-level 1-2 fastball one out later and lined it over the right-field fence, showing no signs of the bone spur or the nerve irritation in his right elbow that sidelined the burly third baseman for part of spring training.
“He’s a special talent,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He showed that in the World Series, when there were a couple of pitches similar to that that he hit out.”