I wasn’t expecting a night like this during my walk down to AT&T Park, and I doubt many in the stands thought they’d end up giving a huge ovation to Tim Lincecum in the eighth inning after an 11-strikeout night either. But that’s the way the Giants are living these days — different heroes every day (welcome to the club, Tyler Colvin) and a pitching staff that seems to get better with every turn through the rotation.
The Giants followed up their confidence-building road trip with their fourth win over the Atlanta Braves in less than two weeks. This one was a 4-2 triumph on an unseasonably warm evening — one that’s supposed to be followed by an even hotter one on Tuesday. Lincecum went further than he has since Sept. 9, 2013 against Colorado, and his manager couldn’t have been more pleased.
“It was vintage Timmy, the way he had his good secondary pitches going along with the fastball. He was using both sides, all quadrants,” said Bruce Bochy.
“He had a good look about him the whole night.”
The mustachioed Lincecum didn’t just have a good look through seven and two-thirds, he also had a tremendous slider. He used his slider as the finishing pitch on seven of his punchouts. Of his 26(!) “whiffs,” 14 came via the slider according to Brooks Baseball.
“When it started working, the slider, early in the game, I just kind of leaned on it. Whatever (Hector) Sanchez was calling I was throwing, too. We had a good plan,” said Lincecum, who knew from the moment he got Justin Upton to swing and miss at two consecutive sliders in the first inning that he and Sanchez were onto something. He threw Upton a third straight slider, and Upton grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to negate a leadoff walk to Jason Heyward.
Colvin’s second inning splash hit home run in the second was the only run the Giants could muster against Gavin Floyd for six innings, and B.J. Upton tied the game with a line drive homer (on a slider) just over the left field wall in the fifth. Lincecum looked like he was on his way to a hard luck no-decision, or maybe even a loss until Upton tried to steal third in the seventh and Sanchez threw him out. He was called safe, but the play was overturned after review.
“That was probably the turning point in the game,” Lincecum said. “That was a crucial play.”
It just may have sparked the Giants’ ensuing rally. Sanchez led off the bottom of the seventh with a sharp single to right-center, and Brandon Crawford reached on Freddie Freeman’s error. That brought up Colvin, who made his San Francisco Giants debut even more special with a triple down the right field line to go in front by a score of 3-1. Then Brandon Hicks drove a single to center to knock in Colvin, giving the Giants a three-run cushion and Bochy a reason to let Lincecum come out for the eighth.
Lincecum didn’t make it all the way through that inning, walking Heyward after starting him 0-2. When Bochy came out to the mound, the crowd at AT&T Park threw down the loudest ovation for a pitcher I’ve heard since Barry Zito’s last game.
“It’s pretty special here when these guys give you something like that,” said Lincecum. “I’m not one to be the big acknowledger of something like that. It’s kind of hard for me. But I definitely take it in.”
— At one point Lincecum referred to his nastiest pitch as a bit of a slurve.
“When they started taking hacks off it, I kind of stuck with that slider-curveball thing I was throwing. It turned out for the best,” he said.
— Upton’s home run was the first hit Lincecum allowed. He only gave up two hits, and the other one (a double) was also hit by the Upton brother no one really worries too much about these days.
— Some heckler was yelling loudly in the ninth inning about how much of a “bum” Freeman is, then Freeman became the second lefty to homer off Javier Lopez since Lopez joined the Giants. A guy sitting in front of me wearing a Chipper Jones jersey yelled a few choice words at the heckler after the ball cleared the arcade.
— I asked Bochy about seeing Sergio Romo pitch a perfect inning in relief of Lopez, a little more than 24 hours after allowing a two-run home run to Hanley Ramirez.
“Believe me, he politicked for that. He said he was good to go,” Bochy said. “Good bounce back for him.”
“They asked me how I felt. I wanted to play,” said Romo, who notched his 13th save in 14 chances. “There’s no better way to forget than to go back out there and get the job done. I just let him know I was ready, I wanted it.”
— Colvin had no idea his home run was the team’s 65th “Splash Hit” until I told him. Here’s his reaction:
He didn’t try to retrieve the ball that landed in McCovey Cove (and was plucked out of the water by “McCovey Cove Dave,” I believe). He gave his first big league home run to his granddad, and since then he’s only been focused on hitting homers instead of collecting keepsakes. If he keeps hitting like this, he’ll get plenty of opportunities here.
— I’ll finish up with a couple more Romo quotes, since I haven’t chatted with him one-on-one in quite a while and he seemed pretty upbeat after everything that occurred in this game (which put the Giants’ record at 25-14, best in the NL).
On the overall feeling on the team compared to last year:
“Every team is different the next year in a sense, one way or another. But this group is just really close. They care. Everyone cares who does well or not. Everyone picks each other up. Yesterday was a good example, they picked me up. Today Timmy came out, Colvin had a great day.”
On watching “Vintage Timmy”:
“It’s just Timmy controlling the zone, especially with his breaking balls and off-speed pitches. So to see him compete, the competitor’s there. To see him compete and actually have results that warrant the effort, it’s very pleasing. It’s actually very uplifting. To see him compete, that’s what’s up.”