Hector Sanchez broke out of his crouch and trotted off the field, feeling pretty good about things. Tim Lincecum had just completed his third perfect inning to start the game — time to hit! Except there were only two outs. Lincecum, who looked as downtrodden as ever after Wednesday’s game, laughed twice. First, after Sanchez’s mistake. Then, after retiring Joe Blanton a couple minutes later to end the inning (not at Blanton, more at Sanchez as the two ran together toward the dugout).
Sanchez’s at-bats were forgettable, and he also threw a one-hopper to the part-time first baseman after letting a pitch go through his legs. His overall game on Tuesday night was about as perfect as his on-base percentage … then Sanchez blocked the plate perfectly against a heavy man running at full speed.
Pagan has done enough over his career and this season to get some decent offers this winter, but his chances of returning to the Giants seemed to evaporate with every Melky Cabrera seeing-eye single. Pagan and Cabrera seemed to get along well, with Pagan famously translating for Cabrera during a few postgame interviews, but both guys were in contract years in the same outfield.
When the Giants traded for Hunter Pence, Pagan’s future as the starting center fielder wasn’t in concrete. Pagan was doing nothing offensively at the time, and the only thing keeping him in the lineup was Pagan’s May and June and the fact that Gregor Blanco was doing even less. After going 2-for-4 on Monday, Pagan was quite busy on Tuesday.
- He singled to lead off the game, went from first to third on the No. 2 hitter’s single, and later scored on Buster Posey’s single.
- He completed the rare feat of successfully sliding headfirst into first base. He was caught stealing soon afterward, just to remind us all that he’s still Angel Pagan.
- He picked up a hustle-double on a single to Matt Kemp.
- He threw out A.J. Ellis — an outfield assist that almost made Mike Krukow drop his stopwatch.
The guy who hit behind Pagan, Marco Scutaro, shouldn’t leave the No. 2 spot for the rest of the season. Dependable seems like a putdown in most cases, but Scutaro’s at-bats are … actually, describing them is unnecessary since he’s got a .333/.373/.448 going since he came to San Francisco. Let’s just call him “indispensable” for now — especially since comparing Scutaro’s defense at second to Ryan Theriot’s is like the difference between Caddyshack and Caddyshack 2.
But it’s not like Scutaro was an All-Star before. He was only hitting .271/.324/.361 before, and that was in Colorado (which makes those numbers roughly Crawfordian). Scutaro’s fitting in extremely well on this team, and that’s something one could probably write after every game these days.
Santiago Casilla pitched two innings for the first time since May 21. He didn’t strike anybody out, but he didn’t walk anyone either. Progress.
The San Francisco Giants have three leaders: Bruce Bochy, Posey and Matt Cain. Two of those three begged for the old Tim Lincecum to come back to life in the past week.
Posey: “We’re going to need him. He’s going to be big for us as well, this last month and a half.”
Bochy: “It’s the back end of August here and it’s important for us to get on track and pitch better,” he said. “(Lincecum) is healthy, his stuff is good. I do think in some of the games that are getting away from him, he forgets to pitch. There’s such a fine line between hitting your spot or hitting the middle of the plate.”
Lincecum isn’t back yet, and he may never be the way he once was, but glimpses of the past were visible tonight. His fastball wasn’t mired in that 90-91 range we’ve grown used to, but more importantly there was movement on all of his pitches. He retired the first 10 Los Angeles Dodgers he faced. He yelled (something he used to do during every game). He looked like the happiest man in the stadium as he walked off the field after recording the third out of each of the first five innings.
Lincecum was a misfit before because of the hair, the windup and how, whenever he got excited, he made even people with terrible eyesight feel like fantastic lip readers. On Tuesday, Lincecum, Sanchez, Pagan, Scutaro and Casilla were all improbable heroes on a night where the Giants’ only extra-base hit was Pagan’s 154-hopper to Kemp.
That’s a bit of a generalization, of course, this whole misfits theme. Posey drove in the first two runs of the game. The infield defense went beyond mere dependablity and into Vizquellian territory on Tuesday night, thanks in part to the handsomest man on the diamond (who also played a sweet Federer backhand dropshot down the left field line to knock in the Giants’ third run).
After Madison Bumgarner blended present stardom with visions of a superstar future last night, Lincecum and an unlikely group led the Giants to a series victory. Now the Giants are ahead of the Dodgers by 1.5 games, with hopes that Matt Cain can make good on his team’s second chance this trip to convert a road sweep.