It’s oh so tempting to exaggerate the importance of Friday’s start to Tim Lincecum’s season, career, psyche and father. It also seemed all too easy to write off Lincecum’s chances of starting another game in June during the 1st inning, even though he wasn’t exactly getting rocked.
But making mountains out of 10-inch mounds is what we do. According to Chris Lincecum, we also crucified his son — an interesting point of view to say the least. But we’ll get to that soon.
Friday’s 1st inning was just like most of the big innings Lincecum has surrendered this season. A seeing-eye hit here, a little obliviousness to baserunners there, a couple walks and PRESTO … Lincecum looks rattled and the pitchcount jumps by about 30 in a span of 30 seconds.
And with the USA Today story coming out … today, Chris Lincecum essentially telling the world his son would be better off pitching someplace else, and Shane Loux warming up, it appeared we were all witness to one of the steepest declines of any seemingly healthy superstar in recent memory — in any sport.
But besides the walks, it wasn’t like Lincecum was getting much help in that 1st inning. Coco Crisp’s speed, plus some unfortunate infield positioning, led to a leadoff single. Nate Schierholtz got a terrible jump on a sinking liner off the end of Josh Reddick’s bat. Brandon Belt didn’t touch first after fielding a grounder with the bases loaded, then threw to Hector Sanchez who neither had his foot on the plate nor could get the tag down on Jemile Weeks.
Lincecum was hardly blameless, he still walked in a run. After that, he got pissed off and struck out the side.
“I think I felt like I just got mad in the right way,” Lincecum said.
“It’s easy to go out there when things are going rough, obviously that emotion, that first one that comes up is probably upset at yourself, and then ashamed and then pissed. So I just tried to channel that madness, I guess you could say, out on the field and stop worrying about the s— that happens behind me that I can’t control. Whether it’s a bad inning happening by s—y reasons or them raking me. Just letting go of the last inning and moving on.”
Three consecutive strikeouts to get out of that jam started a run unlike any we’ve seen from Lincecum this year. He’s had a few fleeting moments in 2012, but nothing that has matched retiring 18 of his last 20 hitters, walking 2 with no hits allowed. “Kruk-Aid” jokes aside, there were some legitimate reasons for Mike Krukow to gush after the game. Krukow repeatedly said, “I think he’s turned his season around,” which is something announcers usually don’t say about a guy who just walked 4 (then again, this is Krukow we’re talking about).
— Lincecum was hitting Hector Sanchez’s target (which Sanchez was flashing quite enthusiastically at times) far more often than we’ve seen, probably all season.
— Even when Lincecum missed, on most occasions after the first inning he was able to figure things out on the fly and respond with a good pitch instead of losing control of everything besides his bowels.
— His slider was nasty (9 swing-throughs), and he threw it 23% of the time — compared to 14% of the time in 2012 leading up to Friday’s game.
Then again, the A’s squandered an opportunity to knock Lincecum out of the game in the 1st. Luck helps.
Here’s Lincecum’s postgame interview (courtesy of Ryan Leong), which includes this nugget from Lincecum about the conversation with his dad that was detailed in Bob Nightengale’s story from earlier today:
“He’s my dad, you know. Regardless of what I want to talk about, at some point he’s going to make me talk about something I don’t necessarily want to. With that, you got to understand that he’s on my side. He’s not out there trying to make me worse. When he’s critiquing me or whatnot it’s not to make me worse. He wants to make me better. I think the hardest thing for him is that he can’t do it for me. He’s not here being able to talk in my ear like he used to. When struggles go on like this, it exacerbates that feeling.
“I think I just got that innate kind of comfort that I get with my dad, just talking to him. When you get past that initial 10 minutes of bickering at each other in the beginning it turns into an actual good conversation and it has a good rhythm to it. Obviously we’re very much alike. With that, butting heads continues but we come around to it and we work our way back to what we need to.”
— The A’s still looked like they’d cruise to an easy win through most of this one, in part because Ryan Theriot was worse than awful. Then Ryan Cook started pitching.
— Gregor Blanco also made up for getting picked off earlier with a 9th inning RBI single to give the Giants run No. 5 … which they’d need because Josh Reddick hit a majestic home run in the bottom of the 9th off Santiago Casilla.
— Casilla is giving up about a home run every 7 innings this season.
— Yoenis Cespedes looked lost on Friday, less than 24 hours after his heroics against the Dodgers. He’s going to see a lot of breaking balls in this series.
— The way this game ended, it’s easy to forget that Jarrod Parker, Jerry Blevins and Grant Balfour were fantastic.
— Brandon Belt had a similar roller coaster-type game as Lincecum. There was the weird defensive play in the first, getting hit in the hand (and looking like he thought he’d be out for at least a month afterward), then the bloop double past Colin Cowgill. If Cowgill somehow makes that play, you don’t see that guy waving the Giants flag behind the Oakland dugout after this one.
Leong also provided Belt’s postgame interview:
— Tonight’s win broke a streak of nine consecutive losses for the Giants during Lincecum starts (and a streak of six-game losing streak in Oakland). Will this lead to a season turnaround like Krukow thinks? Who knows, but it means Lincecum will face the Dodgers on Wednesday. And after all the talk today about his dad and the media and everything else, that’s a huge victory.