If you thought the fans’ reactions to Tim Lincecum-Hector Sanchez starts was bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In his first start of the season opposite Buster Posey, Lincecum pitched his best game since Sept. 18. It was actually his last quality start — a 6.1-inning win in which he didn’t allow an earned run and struck out six — but he topped it tonight in neutralizing San Diego 2-0.
Lincecum came out of the gates comfortably, retiring the side in order before going three-up and three-down in the second inning with two more strikeouts. His first hiccup came in the third when he loaded the bases with two outs, but a broken bat grounder from Chase Headley got him out of the jam. While good starts (or few-inning stretches) have been common even with bad Lincecum, his ability to effectively get out of the stretch without giving up a run was the first sign good Lincecum had shown up.
He made it through 6 2/3 before trouble started brewing. Lincecum’s control started to wane, even in recording outs on Kyle Blanks and Alexi Amarista, so when he walked John Baker, Bruce Bochy was quick to pull the plug. Lincecum’s final line was his best in quite some time: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.
The Posey factor
People will be quick to point at the Sanchez-Posey connection in trying to put two-and-two together, but Lincecum’s success tonight was all predicated on location. 58 of his 95 pitches were for strikes and he wasn’t missing on full counts or his strikeout pitches. Two walks in 6.2 innings is exceptional considering he averaged 4.4 BB/9 in 2012. Sure, Posey is a master-framer, but the usually wild Lincecum appeared much more dialed in than we’ve all become accustomed to.
The icing on the cake was the strikeouts, seven of which were swinging. There was was a lot of life on his breaking balls, and even when his arm seemed to tire in the seventh, Lincecum was still hitting 91 on the radar gun. The Padres were off-balance all game long.
While this start is evidence Bochy should probably experiment with Posey and Lincecum a little more, it doesn’t assure he will. The Giants’ top priority is still protecting their $167M investment, and although Posey came out of tonight’s game completely unscathed, Lincecum does have a habit of regularly wearing out his catchers.
Nor does this start assure the Freak of old is back, but it sure was fun to see him confident under pressure for the first time in a while, wasn’t it?
– Lincecum wasn’t just doing it on the hill, either. He gave Andrew Cashner some trouble in his first plate appearance and drew a seven-pitch walk in his second.
– Pablo Sandoval provided the offensive excitement for the night when he capped off an eight-pitch at bat with a two-run homer to the arcade seats in the fourth inning.
– Sandoval left in the seventh inning after fouling a ball off of his ankle, which sent him to the ground in pain.
“He’s fine,” Bochy said about his third baseman. “I’m sure he’s going to be a little sore. You foul a ball off your ankle — I’m not exactly sure where it hit, but we’ll check on him and see where he’s at tomorrow.”
– Slumping shoulders have returned for Brandon Belt, who just can’t catch a break at the plate. He blasted a ball to dead center field, but it ran out of steam about five feet short of the 399 marker.
– The Giants invited Dave Feldman and Ahmed Fareed to be honorary ball boys tonight, so CSN’s new favorite anchors got even more airtime than we’re already used to seeing (which is a lot).