You know why we were all freaking out over the 25-man roster like a bunch of OCD-fueled Skip Baylesses? Why Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were the trending topics, when they haven’t meant anything much at all to this team besides taking up innings and at-bats?
Because ever since Tim Lincecum started pitching for the San Francisco Giants, we’ve all wondered what this would be like. What it would be like to watch him pitch in the playoffs for the first time. And we all freaked out. I didn’t talk or write about it at all, but it was the only thing I thought about. And I’m sure many of you reading this felt the same.
Would he be the Lincecum that flung changeup after changeup up there because he couldn’t place his fastball? Would he be the guy who ruled in September, or sucked in August? Would the extra rest and All-Star game experience make him relaxed and dominant? Would he actually pitch like the guy who owned Major League Baseball in 2008 and parts of 2009?
Oh, God yes. The fact he threw a first-pitch strike was a good sign. Then Omar Infante watched a few adrenaline-fueled pitches go wayward, and then knocked a double into left-center. Would we have to wait another few days to see Lincecum handle the postseason the way he’s capable?
Then he started missing, but missing down. And from there it was an absolute tour de force. He carved up the Braves something fierce. Forget the 14 strikeouts (OK, just stop thinking about them for 10 seconds, I know you can’t actually forget them), have you ever seen so many lazy pop flies against Lincecum? This was truly, and easily, the best game of his career. And it just happened to be the best postseason performance in Giants history, unless you can dig up some Christy Mathewson World Series outing from 1912.
Think about that. His first playoff game, the day after watching the guy who will take Cy Young away from him this year pitch a no-hitter the night before, and he pitches a power-pitcher’s perfect game, a game that added another notch to, let’s face it, a Hall-of-Fame resume thus far.
Another thing this game did was prove that the kind of baseball we watched all season isn’t going away.
Great starting pitching. Nasty stuff from the opposing starter. Double-plays galore. Missed calls by umpires making too much of a difference (but in this time in the Giants’ favor, although I think Aubrey Huff might have been safe when he tried to steal second). Buster Posey looking like the best position player on the field (and if he would have scored after hitting that leadoff triple, people would be making a lot more “Thrill” comparisons). And yet another 1-0 game.
There were some questionable managerial decisions as well. Mike Fontenot should have started this game, and Freddy Sanchez proved that at the end of every one of his at-bats. Renteria should have pinch hit for Pablo Sandoval, because a right-handed hitting Sandoval is a baaaaad Panda with a guy on first base. But whatever. If Bochy made the decisions I would have wanted, something weird would have happened in the Matrix or something and they probably would have called Posey out at second.
But Bobby Cox made worse decisions (Walking Pablo? Really?), and the Giants clearly made the right call in giving Cody Ross the starting right field job throughout the postseason today. He was the difference tonight — along with Posey — when it came to the offense. Juan Uribe was the only guy who had Derek Lowe figured out; he just couldn’t keep any of his hard-hit balls fair. But Ross looked playoff-ready, and showed once again that when it comes to the big picture, the Giants brass seems to have it figured out this year.
Tim Lincecum, he seems to have the playoffs figured out. So far, anyway. And as a result, we can all exhale. Matt Cain’s up tomorrow, and now we get to see what his playoff future holds. And Jonathan Sanchez’s. And Madison Bumgarner’s. Whatever torture these guys have in store for us, it’s impossible to pull your eyes away. Wow. It’s the playoffs. And it’s better than we remembered.