Is It Safe To Say Lincecum's Mechanics Are Okay Now?
(originally written 10/4/10)
Looking back, we’re fortunate Tim Lincecum allowed that leadoff hit to All-Star (stifles laughter) Omar Infante. Took away the drama of the potential no-hitter. I have no doubt that if Timmy had the no-no intact, he wouldn’t have allowed Brian McCann (a genuine All-Star in the past) to hit that double in the 7th.
The Braves would have been no-hit, just as the Reds were by the Phillies’ Roy Halladay in Game 1 of their series.
And usually stoic, mellow Giants fans would have rioted. I’m talking lattes all over San Francisco Bay. Laptops churning out drunken Tweets by the SECOND. People blazing through yellow lights in their hybrids as Jack Johnson blares from their MP3 players…I get chillz just thinking about the dozens of dollars of damage we would have caused had Timmy completed the no-no.
Cody Ross called it the “best performance” he’s seen, and he’s seen not only Anibal Sanchez’ 2006 no-hitter up close but also Ricky Nolasco’s infamous near no-no against the 2008 Giants. Buster Posey called it “unreal”. Tim Lincecum’s pitching performance I will describe in my own words as—in honor of a friend of mine—wicked awesome. He handled the Braves lastnight. Granted, the Braves’ lineup, like Metro PCS’ network, is littered with dead spots. Hall-of-Famer-to-be Chipper Jones was not in it. Martin Prado, roughly the Braves’ version of Andres Torres, was not in it. Neither will be; they’re both done for the year. McCann and Rick Ankiel have seen far better seasons.
Nate McLouth, a former All-Star who was talented enough for the Pirates to get rid of before he fled on his own, has been one of 2010’s biggest disappointments and is firmly nailed to Bobby Cox’ bench. I don’t know if he’s rocking back and forth like Leo Mazzone used to; I miss that.
The scariest guy in the Braves’ lineup is Derrek (with two R’s) Lee, the longtime Marlin/Cub quietly acquired by Atlanta a few weeks ago. Lee, you’ll note, once threatened seriously for the Triple Crown. He can hit a ball very far, and he can hit to all fields. He’s hit 312 homers in his career, a great non-steroid total.
Lincecum struck him out three times.
Derek Lowe was the Braves’ starter. Lowe, of course, is well known to Giants fans for his four years as a Dodger. He’s also nationally known for easily winning Game 7 of the Red Sox infamous series comeback against the Yankees in 2004. He pitched in the postseason for the 2006 and 2008 Dodgers as well. He lives and dies by his sinking fastball, and he’s had a very fine career—first as a closer, then a starter. He would be no pushover. I’d hoped the Giants would mount a shocking attack as they had vs. Halladay, Ubaldo Jiminez and Mat Latos at various points in the regular season, but Lowe ensured that didn’t happen in his 5.1 innings.
It wasn’t hard to see early on that the G-Men wouldn’t be touching home more than twice in this game. The one runner who DID shouldn’t have even been on base, but luckily for us, umpires don’t let little things like being tagged out stop them from calling runners safe. The irony: if that bad call on Posey’s steal had gone against us, every fan in existence would be demanding instant replay by the start of Game 2…myself included!
Cox proved that even legends are fallible when he decided to go after Ross, who drove Posey in, rather than walk him and face Lincecum. In baseball, that early in the game, trying to have the pitcher lead off the next inning isn’t usually a bad move, especially when Ross hasn’t exactly torn up Lowe in the past. This time, it cost Cox the game, cuz Lincecum had his lineup by their collective scrotums. (In fact, on one particular K, Brooks Conrad appeared ready to hand over his jewels to The Freak as he ambled back to the dugout.)
The moment everyone, even the broadcasters, foreshadowed came in the 6th. Lowe allowed a deep triple to Posey, K’d Burrell looking, walked Juan Uribe, and was removed for super-lefty Jonny Venters.
Throughout Bobby Cox’ tenure, almost annually, he’s taken a rookie reliever who nobody’s ever heard of and turned him into a reliable force out of his ‘pen. Greg McMichael, Brad Clontz, Mike Cather, Pedro Borbon Jr., Kevin McGlinchy, John Rocker, Kevin Grybowski and Pete Moylan to name a few offhand. These guys usually have success for a year or two, then disappear into obscurity.
This year’s edition is Venters, who throws very hard and is very nasty. He could be first in line to succeed the retiring Billy Wagner as closer next season, when someone other than Cox manages the team for the first time since the spring of 1990. For now, his job is to simply enter a playoff game in a loud visiting ballpark and somehow prevent the Giants from bringing in Posey from 3rd with less than two out…at age 22.
Venters did so on one grimace-inducing pitch, getting Pablo Sandoval to bounce into a double play and strand Posey. I love Panda, I know what he can do, but once Uribe was walked and Panda was forced to bat righty, I was pretty much ready to concede the outs. The only way Posey was scoring was on a wild pitch. At least Sandoval didn’t go through the motions and got the inevitable double play grounder over with in a hurry for those East Coast fans who had to get up early the next day.
Timmy did his part to speed up the game as well, by only allowing the Braves crumbs—although he scared us briefly by missing high several times in the 9th, he never bent, let alone broke. Lincecum ended up shattering the old Giants postseason record of 10 K held by four men, finishing with 14 (including one of PH Eric Hinske, whose presence on Atlanta’s roster, according to some, guarantees their trip to the World Series simply because he’s been on the last three American League Champions. I don’t remember the Blue Jays in the World Series from 2002-2006 when Hinske played for them, but so what, right?) Love love LOVE the barehand of the return toss after Lincecum K’d Lee for the final out, as if to say “What’choo thought, fool?”
Call him The Freak. Call him The F--k (after his on-camera celebratory exclamation). Call him whatever, but #55 is the toast of San Francisco. Seriously, they could find out Tim has been trafficking Japanese sex slaves and setting churches on fire, and all anybody would want to know is: will he make his next start?
And Gerald Dempsey Posey III isn’t far behind.
It’s Matt Cain vs. Tommy Hanson tonight.
And it’s ON.
Sport your orange and black like it’s Halloween, fans—I know I will.