The Dodgers beat Tim Lincecum again on Wednesday night.
But the 6-2 victory at Dodger Stadium was nothing like their four victories against him last season, when Clayton Kershaw repeatedly edged the two-time Cy Young Award winner in a series of stirring pitchers' duels.
Lincecum's fourth-inning implosion allowed the Dodgers to overcome an uninspired start by Chad Billingsley and claim their second victory in the three-game series.
Pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. capped a four-run fourth inning with a bases-clearing triple and Scott Van Slyke drove in a run in his first major league at-bat, as the Dodgers improved to 20-11, including 12-3 at home.
Meanwhile, the Giants remained a mess. Closer Brian Wilson is out for the season, recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. With Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list, the Giants fielded a lineup consisting exclusively of 20-somethings. They fell five games back of the Dodgers in the National League West.
Lincecum's early-season problems persisted, as the diminutive right-hander raised his earned-run average to 5.89 by surrendering four runs in five innings. His record dropped to 2-3.
His fastball was more lively than it been this season, as it sat between 90-93 mph. Entering Wednesday, his average fastball velocity was 89.8 mph, according to FanGraphs.com. His fastballs averaged 94.0 mph in 2008, his first full season in the majors.
The Giants don't know why Lincecum isn't throwing as hard as he used to, Manager Bruce Bochy said.
But, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said, "the effectiveness doesn't look any different to me."
The Giants lost four of the five games Lincecum started against the Dodgers last season, but Lincecum's ERA in those games was 1.83.
"It wasn't like we were just knocking him around the field," Mattingly said. "We weren't scoring. He was a big hit away from winning those, too."
Not Wednesday — and this was despite Billingsley pitching only four innings.
Billingsley threw 51 pitches in the first two innings. He threw 34 more over the next two before being removed for Gwynn.
Billingsley was charged with seven hits but limited the damage to two runs, a deficit his team was able to overcome in the fourth inning.
Andre Ethier started the charge with a double to right. He scored on a single by Juan Uribe.
A.J. Ellis drew a walk to load the bases later in the inning, setting up a bases-clearing triple to right by Gwynn.
The Dodgers were up, 4-2.
"He gets so many outs down in the strike zone," Mattingly said. "I thought we did a better job that inning of forcing him to get the ball up."
Lincecum pitched one more inning and was pulled in favor of a pinch hitter in the top of the sixth.
Facing reliever Travis Blackley, Ellis tripled to left field in the sixth. Van Slyke, who was called up from triple-A Albuquerque earlier in the day, singled up the middle to increase the Dodgers' lead to 5-2.
"I got some stuff out of the way," Van Slyke said. "It's going to be with me for a while."
An insurance run was tacked on in the eighth inning, when Uribe doubled and scored on a single by James Loney. The Dodgers were up, 6-2.
The Dodgers' inconsistent bullpen pitched five scoreless innings to protect the lead.
Jamey Wright (2-2) pitched two innings and was rewarded with a win.
Ronald Belisario, Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen each threw an inning. Jansen's ninth-inning appearance was his first since Mattingly named him the closer on Monday.