Since a slew of brilliant starts toward the beginning of July, Tim Lincecum hasn't had his vintage touch. With the Giants a half-game ahead of the Pirates for the second National League Wild Card spot, Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park would be a perfect time for him to get it back.
San Francisco, which is just 3-7 over its last 10 games, saw flashes of the Lincecum who won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008-09 during a four-game stretch that began with The Freak's second career no-hitter on June 25 against San Diego.
Lincecum allowed just one earned run over his next three starts, and went 4-0 with a microscopic 0.30 ERA (one earned runs in 30 1/3 innings). But in his last six appearances since July 20, he's posted an 0-3 record and an 8.39 ERA (23 ER in 24 2/3).
His latest outing against the Royals was rough -- six runs came across against Lincecum in his 3 1/3 innings -- during which the right-hander lasted only 41 pitches after barely 30 minutes.
"I didn't execute a lot of pitches I needed to in big spots," said Lincecum, who was touched for four runs in the first. "They feasted on me in the first inning."
As Lincecum tries to help the Giants claim Sunday's rubber match, Phillies rookie David Buchanan will be standing in his way. The right-hander is proving that he belongs in Philadelphia's 2015 rotation with each outing. His last time out represented the first time he's faced a Major League club for the second time, and the 25-year-old didn't disappoint. Buchanan went six innings and allowed three runs to tally his sixth big league quality start.
"Even though they've seen me, I still have to pitch my game and continue to hit spots and try to get them out," Buchanan said. "Just staying true to myself. Just because they've seen me once, that doesn't mean I have to change my game plan."
After posting 2-3 record and a 5.97 ERA in his first five starts, Buchanan is 4-3 with a 3.35 mark in seven starts since.
Phillies: Top prospect still sidelined with ankle sprain
Class A Advanced Clearwater shortstop J.P. Crawford has not played since Monday because of a sprained left ankle.
It is not believed to be serious. Crawford reportedly felt better Saturday and is day to day.
"I'm not sure how much longer it is going to take," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Saturday's game against the Giants at AT&T Park. "We're not overly concerned."
Crawford is the No. 1 prospect in the organization. The 19-year-old is hitting .274 with four doubles, six home runs, 18 RBIs and a .743 OPS in 48 games with Clearwater since a midseason promotion from Class A Lakewood.
Giants: After gaffes, Blanco staying aggressive on bases
Gregor Blanco has made a handful of curious decisions on the basepaths in the last few weeks, and after two more costly miscues in the Giants' 5-3 loss on Friday night, manager Bruce Bochy had a meeting with his fastest bench player.
"I talked to him tonight," Bochy said after the game. "It's a fine line between being aggressive and being smart. He can be a very good baserunner. He's just got to keep his focus out there. These guys are trying to make something happen, and sometimes they probably push it too much. When he's going right, he's one of our better baserunners."
• The Giants have hit just four home runs in their past 11 games and 10 homers in their past 22 contests. San Francisco is 44-19 this season when they hit at least one home run.
• Since June 26, Phillies center fielder Ben Revere leads the Majors with 67 hits. He has multiple hits in 20 of 42 games over the stretch.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.