You know what all the cool kids are doing? It has nothing to do with facial hair, striped necklaces or delivering dairy products to one’s doorstep (or dressing like you do). All the cool kids are pitching 7 shutout innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tim Lincecum, the incredibly popular free spirit who represented the San Francisco Giants on a national scale for years, matched the rest of the rotation’s production for the first time this season. As a result, most everyone seems cool with Lincecum again.
Skeptics will (rightly) point out that while Lincecum has pitched 12 straight shutout innings, those innings have come against the Oakland A’s and this weakened, now-Andre-Ethier-free version of the Dodgers. The Giants blanked the Dodgers for three consecutive games in a sweep that energizes San Francisco and will probably send Los Angeles into a pit of insecurity, despair and excuses. It’s difficult for the Dodgers to maintain the blistering pace they set earlier this year without both Matt Kemp and Ethier, yet the National League sheds no tears.
But Lincecum hasn’t pitched two straight effective games against anyone in 2012. Go back to Spring Training, when he was throwing glorified batting practice back before anyone thought to get worried. And despite the Dodger lineup’s paltry statistics, Lincecum still vanquished a team desperate to stay atop the NL West and score a run in this series.
It wouldn’t be easy, either. Lincecum needed a double play to get out of the 1st (a Vogelsong-like effort to escape an early jam). The most memorable play of the game occurred in the 3rd inning, when a Lincecum wild pitch shot past Hector Sanchez to the backstop. With Chad Billingsley (not exactly a small man) racing home, Lincecum blocked the plate, fielded Sanchez’s throw and tagged out the Dodgers’ starter. The play was eerily similar to a decidedly less successful (and more violent) collision Lincecum had with Colin Cowgill on May 20.
According to Lincecum, “Sanchez made a great play on a s—– pitch.”
Lincecum’s last (and biggest) challenge came in the 7th. With Dodgers on first and second and one out, Bruce Bochy came out to the mound.
“The second I saw him kind of trotting out to me, instead of the walk, kind of just gave me the inclination that I’m going to probably be in this game if I give him the right answer. And I still had plenty of energy out there and I still felt like I had my stuff, so I was going to grind it out no matter what,” Lincecum said.
“He was asking me, ‘You got this?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He’s like, ‘What?’ And I go, ‘Yes sir.’“
After Bochy returned to the dugout, Lincecum got Tony Gwynn Jr. to fly out before striking out Juan Uribe — Lincecum’s 8th strikeout of the afternoon.
From there, the sweep seemed inevitable. The Dodgers were ready to leave town after a disaster of a series (to cap things off, after the game AP writer Janie McCauley heard that the Dodgers’ equipment truck had broken down on HWY 101 … no, that isn’t a joke). On the other hand, the Giants — playing better than they have all year with their old hero once again relevant — are feeling mighty good about themselves (and it showed in the clubhouse).
On the whole “personal catcher” thing…
Lincecum’s new catcher (for now, at least) seems to be Sanchez. Sanchez has his strong points. He makes loud contact fairly often and has made it quite far for such a young player. Lincecum has also pitched as well as he has all year in his last two starts, and Sanchez caught both of them.
Here’s a 30-second video which shows what Lincecum had to say about Sanchez’s remarkable diving play on a bunt attempt by Elian Herrera. Included was this quote from Lincecum: “I threw a lot of balls in the dirt to beat the crap out of him.”:
At the end of Bochy’s press conference I asked him whether Lincecum/Sanchez was a battery that he’d have a hard time breaking up.
“Could be. I like the fact that I could put Buster at first today, day game after a night game. I don’t want to get caught in who’s going to catch who right now. Sure, it’s been two good games with these two. That’s why I changed it last game, just to break it up. We’ve got if not the best catcher in the game, one of them with Buster if you look at what he’s done. Sometimes change is good, just to break it up. Buster’s our catcher, he’ll be doing the lion’s share of the catching.”
Two days after Sanchez took a foul ball to the side of his head, he went down on his left shoulder pretty hard on that diving catch but stayed in the game. In the clubhouse afterward the 22-year-old looked no worse for wear, tossing a ball of used athletic tape into the trash can from 30 feet away. Sanchez seemed upset that no cameras were rolling for his long distance “basket.”
— Lincecum on whether he’s focusing on getting bigger: “I’m not trying to put on weight. If it happens, it does. But I feel comfortable with my weight. I feel fine.”
— “We’ve not once have lacked confidence in Timmy. Not once, for one second. The troubles that he’s had, it’s surprising to us as well. Because the guy, he has an unbelievable ability to get guys out. They don’t call him ‘The Freak’ for nothing,” Sergio Romo said.
As he left, Romo said “TIMMAH!”
“ROMO,” Lincecum replied.
As he walked past, Romo looked over at today’s winning starter and said, “I like answering questions about you.”
— Romo also switched roles, taking the microphone from Jaymee Sire and asking Buster Posey a question about the Giants’ upcoming series: