Giants are solid at top of rotation

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SAN FRANCISCO --- Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are engaged in a friendly competition when it comes to their success with the San Francisco Giants.

"I've got to stay ahead of him," Cain said with a smile. "He finds ways to do it. I've got to tell him to slow down so I can catch up to him in innings."

These two, both 10-2 heading into the second half, are a big reason surprising San Francisco holds the NL wild-card lead with the second-best record behind the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

They are at the top of a talented pitching rotation. Injured left-hander Randy Johnson won his 300th career game in June, then former Augusta GreenJacket Jonathan Sanchez threw an improbable no-hitter last Friday night against San Diego.

Both Cain and Lincecum -- with 2.38 and 2.33 ERAs, respectively -- were supposed to be All-Stars together this week. But Cain injured his elbow during his start Saturday and was replaced on the NL roster. Still, it marked the first time since Hall of Famers Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry in 1966 that two Giants' starters have been named to the Midsummer Classic.

The shaggy-haired Lincecum, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner who started for the NL on Tuesday night in St. Louis, jams through the clubhouse to the blaring music he chooses on the sound system. He moves to the beat in his clubhouse chair before a start or chomps an ice cream bar for fuel. He doesn't ice his arm afterward.

Cain, on the other hand, typically stays to himself on the other side of the room. They'd have to shout to communicate from such a distance. Their pitching is taking care of itself.

The health of these pitchers will be a big factor in the second half as the Giants try to make a playoff push following a five-year drought and four consecutive losing seasons.

Cain's bruised elbow wasn't considered serious, but it's unclear how long it will take for the 45-year-old Johnson to return from a strained throwing shoulder.

"The break's always a challenging time for a coach," pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "You never know what you're going to get when they come back."


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