Topic A in Game 4: Lincecum
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:40 p.m.
Forget Game 3 of the NLCS, that drawn-out, drenched affair. Just know the Giants lost 3-1 and left a million men on base — 11, actually — and now they are down 2-1 in games and they will pitch Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6 and Matt Cain in Game 7, if there is a Game 6 and a Game 7.
The issue is Game 4, the most frightening game in this series from the Giants’ point of view. The issue is Tim Lincecum. After Wednesday’s game, Bruce Bochy said he will start Lincecum in Game 4 Thursday.
“He’s the guy we want out there and he’s been throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to bounce back. It’s great to have a guy like Timmy all set to go.”
At this point, it would be customary to insert a Lincecum quote, maybe not brilliant or even witty. Just a normal quote like, “I’m excited for the opportunity to start and I’m glad the skipper trusts me with this important game.”
I cannot provide an authentic Lincecum quote. He hustled out of the visiting clubhouse just as the media entered — maybe he didn’t want to talk before a start. He was wearing a beanie. That’s what someone told me — I was still at the Bochy postgame conference. And Lincecum had on his earphones.
We won’t let the absence of Lincecum keep us from discussing him. He is Topic A.
Lincecum absolutely must pitch well. The Giants need to win this game to avoid going down 3-1, a serious deficit. Lincecum needs to step up, be big, be The Man. He needs to shut down the powerful Cardinal hitters. You could insert other appropriate clichés if you’d like, but you get the idea. Lincecum needs to be the superstar he once was, but hasn’t been this season.
It clearly was the popular move to start Lincecum in Game 4, although Bochy has been reluctant to give Lincecum a start. Giants fans love Lincecum, and affectionately call him “Timmy,” as if he’s the kid next door. Giants fans also feel protective of Lincecum — it’s something about the way he looks.
But he needs to come on strong, needs to be a giant Giant. He needs to do the protecting.
He has pitched well in the postseason as a reliever. This may or may not translate to pitching well as a starter. Maybe Lincecum thought over the meaning of pitching and life while he watched games from the bullpen, and maybe he came to terms with what he does and who he is. Maybe he found himself all over again. In that case, he will blow the Cards away.
But it’s not that simple. It’s one thing to pitch innings here and there out of the pen. It’s another thing when the game is entrusted to you. That involves pressure and advanced strategy, and sometimes Lincecum over-thinks when he is the starter. He admits that.
The Giants must win Lincecum’s game because, get this, Barry Zito pitches Game5. You do not want Zito to get a start for the Giants in an elimination game on the road, certainly not in St. Louis. Really, you don’t.
Zito was dreadful against the Reds in the first round of the playoffs. So why is Bochy starting Zito in Game5 and not Madision Bumgarner? Simple. Zito merely has been dreadful. Bumgarner has been downright alarming.
Get a load of Bumgarner’s stats in this postseason: in two games, he has amassed (if that’s the word) an 11.25 ERA, given up 15 hits, including three homers, and 10 runs. Opponents are batting .385 against him. The guy has become a run-dispensing machine.
Bochy, trying to understate the case, said, “I think it’s time to give Madison a little break.”
A little break? How about send him on a cruise to Alaska? No way Bochy could trust Bumgarner against the Cards’ powerful right-handed hitters. No way he could do that and respect himself. It’s questionable if Bochy could trust Bumgarner in the World Series, if it comes to that.
There’s something else. Bochy could not pitch lefties two days in a row against the Cards, who devour lefties. Bochy had to go righty lefty, which he’s done — Lincecum, Zito.
There is baggage with Lincecum. We can’t look the other way on this. Lincecum rarely pitches to Buster Posey. With him and Zito, it’s Hector Sanchez behind the plate. It’s unclear what’s going on between Posey and Lincecum, but it’s ridiculous. Someone asked Bochy who will catch Lincecum tonight.
“I’ll talk about that once I get back with the staff,” Bochy said, hedging.
No, Bruce. No. Lincecum should pitch to Posey, your best player, the National League batting champ. You don’t move Posey to first and weaken your offense, not in this game. A former major-league pitcher, disgusted by this Lincecum-Posey silliness, told me, “When I was pitching, the manager told me, ‘You’re pitching to him,’ and that was that.”
Not on the Giants.
I come back to Lincecum leaving the postgame clubhouse. I am intrigued by his headphones and what he was listening to. I hope it was a motivational program that preached something like, “Believe in yourself, Timmy. You can be a starter again. You can beat the Cards. You are Tim Lincecum, superstar. Repeat that 100 times.”
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