Lincecum is back—or is it: backkkkkkkkkkk? Whatever he is, tonight’s game was step in the right direction.

Lincecum’s performance was nothing short of dominant, striking out 11 over eight innings.

Sure, the Astros strikeout just over 8 times per game—good for second worst in the league. Yes, they are MLB’s worst road team, averaging the third fewest runs away. But let’s not focus on the negative.

Bochy certainly isn’t.

“He was outstanding,” Bochy said of Lincecum, following tonight’s victory. So outstanding that Bochy has already declared that Lincecum will start against the Philadelphia Phillies, a team averaging only 6.4 strikeouts per game—good for third best.

If my math is correct, Lincecum will duel Sacramento native Vance Worley next Saturday. Worley is performing reasonably well this season, with an 3.47 ERA and 3.59 xFIP. But, pitching aside, the matchup looks to be one that will allow Lincecum to continue his confidence building. Only Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco have done any real damage against Lincecum. The rest are mediocre at best.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Shane Victorino 40 38 8 1 0 1 4 2 7 .211 .250 .316 .566
Ryan Howard 35 32 7 3 0 3 5 3 16 .219 .286 .594 .879
Chase Utley 35 32 6 1 0 1 2 2 10 .188 .257 .313 .570
Jimmy Rollins 34 31 6 2 0 0 0 3 8 .194 .265 .258 .523
Hunter Pence 30 29 5 1 0 0 1 1 8 .172 .200 .207 .407
Carlos Ruiz 25 21 5 2 0 1 1 3 5 .238 .360 .476 .836
Juan Pierre 16 15 6 1 2 0 3 1 1 .400 .438 .733 1.171
Placido Polanco 16 15 5 2 0 0 1 1 2 .333 .375 .467 .842
Mike Fontenot 13 13 1 0 0 0 1 0 6 .077 .077 .077 .154
Total 263 243 52 14 2 6 18 17 70 .214 .271 .362 .633
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/14/2012.

Closer Situation

Santiago Casilla picked up his 11th meltdown, tying him for the most in the majors. Granted, he wasn’t helped much by the Giants’ defense, but the walk to Scott Moore and the subsequent double by Justin Maxwell were squarely Casilla’s fault.

If the Giants want to replace Casilla, it seems unlikely they’d promote from within. As Scott Willis pointed out last week, “Casilla is arguably the Giants third best pitcher (as long as Lopez is pitching primarily to lefties). Using him as the ‘closer’ frees up Bochy to use his best relievers in higher leverage situations, instead of waiting for the possibility of a save situation that may not come.”

Casilla is closer by necessity, not by merit. Thus, if they were to upgrade the position, it would be via trade.

Stolen BASGs

Ray Ratto, a delegate at the “Timmy Caucus”, won’t endorse Lincecum just yet, but he will endorse chalk antacids. Ratto warns that Giants baseball will not be “user-friendly” this season. Perhaps this will be the slogan that usurps “Torture.”

–Bochy said Aubrey Huff might rejoin the team as soon as Tuesday. He went 1-5 in Single-A San Jose tonight. Draw your own conclusions.

–Pablo Sandoval had two infield singles tonight. For that, I present another Panda video.