Who knows what it means from a guy who looked like the best pitcher in baseball for a month-long stretch a little less than a year ago, but when Tim Lincecum pitches well, you watch. Period. Lincecum has a scoreless streak that reached 15 innings with six shutout frames during the Giants’ 6-0 win over the Marlins on Friday night, but the numbers never tell the whole story with Lincecum. There was the do-rag and the slightly tilted lid. Those were new. There was the fire, which was both familiar and very, very welcome.
Lincecum used to throw 97 mph and strike out tons of dudes, and back then he was King Skater Dude on the field and in the dugout. On the field he looked like a Little League MVP with the power to make major leaguers look silly, and in the dugout he’d bounce off the walls and curse/cheer on his teammates like a Little Leaguer who chugged a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew right before first pitch.
He’s almost 31 now, and his fastball sometimes comes in at 87, but it’s fun to watch him get so angry when he allows a line drive that gets caught by Angel Pagan, or excited when he strikes out the most fearsome slugger in the game with the bases loaded and two outs … on three breaking balls.
It’s a new Lincecum, and we can’t be sure that this version truly has it all figured out. But after a few years of looking dazed during those road starts in warm weather cities, and frustrated/confused/I-can’t-even during bad starts at AT&T while the home crowd murmured, it’s a joy to see him so into the game once again.
Did Lincecum look like a guy who was still in love with baseball over the past few years? Maybe at times, but it was sad to see the game look like a job to Lincecum throughout a good portion of those 2012-14 seasons, especially since he — more than anyone over his first five seasons — showed that a baseball player doesn’t need to sit quietly in the dugout … like an adult (ew) to be a good teammate or a solid pro.
The preparation gets short shrift when you look at it this way, but Lincecum’s Cy Young peak seemed to show us that if what you did worked when you were 11, it can work when you’re thriving in the bigs. We couldn’t expect Lincecum to maintain that youthful enthusiasm forever, but it seemed clear over the past few years that he was searching for a new version of himself that made sense, both from a pitching perspective and an image/demeanor/appearance standpoint. But it’s all about the pitching — whenever Lincecum starts getting guys out on a regular basis, the old, demonstrative TIMMY comes back.
— Casey McGehee came up with the bases loaded and one out, and he gave his new team a 4-0 lead with a grand slam to center against his old squad. Then he hit into two double plays. That’s 11 for the year (double plays, not grand slams). One has to figure the double plays will dry up — the guy hit into 10 in 2012, when he played 114 games. And his grand slam was perfect, as the Giants had scored three runs while losing two in a row and a double play in that situation would’ve kept the game scoreless.
— The Giants were expected (by me) to sign McGehee to a two-year, $25 million extension right after the game, but nothing yet. We’ll see if there’s a press conference before Saturday’s game.
— Brandon Belt is hitting the ball better than anyone on the Giants — and possibly anyone in the National League – over the last six days (12-for-22, seven extra-base hits). So of course he’s still waiting on his first home run, something Brandon Crawford (who has five homers in 2015) is undoubtedly pointing out on a daily basis. The Giants’ next Splash Hit is No. 69, and I’d put money on Belt hitting that one. Or Nori Aoki. Alright, it’ll probably be Aoki. Sorry, Belt.
— Here’s Belt’s facial expression immediately before hitting his second inning double, in case you were wondering if he’s feeling good about things.
— Looking at Michael Morse’s early numbers and seeing how he reacted to that Brandon Belt line drive, and … is it really so bad that the Giants didn’t match or beat the two-year, $16 million deal he got from the Marlins? The Giants got the best possible outcome out of Morse — early production before he got hurt, and some key hits in the postseason as he was healing. He didn’t have an easy play on the ball that Belt hit, but it’s one he should’ve made. I get it, I get it … dingerz from a big galoot who smiled more than anyone else on the team. But I also get why the Giants let him sign with Miami.
It does look like the Giants miss him, though. Matt Cain most of all.
— Justin Maxwell had a pretty great night while Hunter Pence was playing his first rehab game in Sacramento. The Pence injury has hindered the Giants in so many ways, but it also solidified Maxwell’s spot on this team.
— Look at Yusmeiro Petit, putting everyone to sleep with a three-inning save. Honestly, I think that’s how he gets a lot of his outs, by boring hitters to tears. It’s an amazing strategy, really.
— Apparently Lincecum has a new personal catcher, and he and Buster Posey form a battery the Giants seemed dead-set on avoiding. Baseball is a funny game.