Tim Lincecum provides steady relief as Giants win 8-3 and force NLDS to Game 5

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The Giants looked to be in big trouble when starter Barry Zito allowed three walks and a single in the first inning of Wednesday’s NLDS Game 4 vs. the Reds and a home run to Ryan Ludwick in the third.

But the fellas in the gray “San Francisco” jerseys were the ones sharing handshakes on the field in Cincinnati once the evening was through.

George Kontos and Jose Mijares kept the dangerous Reds offense from inflicting anymore damage when Zito was pulled in the bottom of the third inning, then Tim Lincecum entered in the bottom of the fourth and delivered 4 1/3 frames of one-run ball while fanning six Reds batters, walking none and surrendering just two hits.

It was Lincecum’s second relief appearance of this 2012 postseason, and he was absolutely terrific. The 28-year-old right-hander tossed 42 of his 55 pitches for strikes, looking like a reborn pitcher after registering a career-high 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 186 dismal innings during the regular season.

This wacky NLDS was led by the Reds 2-0 just two days ago. And now it’s suddenly 2-2.

Game 5 on Thursday will feature Cincy’s Mat Latos against Giants ace Matt Cain. It should be great.

Hunter Pence exits game with apparent injury

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Rangers OF/DH Hunter Pence exited Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after suffering an apparent injury chasing down a ground-rule double hit by José Peraza in the fifth inning. The beat writers are suggesting it’s a groin injury, but we’ll have to wait for the Rangers to provide an update to know for sure.

Pence was 1-for-2 with a two-run home run on the afternoon before suffering the injury. He’s had a rebirth of a season, batting .294/.353/.608 with 15 home runs, 48 RBI, and 44 runs scored in 215 plate appearances.

Shin-Soo Choo and Pence were sharing both the DH spot and left field. If Pence needs to go on the injured list, Danny Santana would likely see an uptick in playing time, particularly in left field.