Lincecum refuses to be the wimpy kid against Phillies
July 20, 2012
PHILADELPHIA – This little corner of the baseball world off Broad Street has never been praised for its gentility, and Tim Lincecum knows it. There have been taunts, wolf whistles and hurtful signs that scream, “fix your teeth.”
So when Tim Lincecum had his d’oh moment in the third inning here, turning toward the dugout after recording only the second out, he could have flinched as the crowd rose up. He could have reacted like he was standing in the shadow of the playground bully.
He could have gone all wimpy.
Instead, this: “I thought I could just laugh about it. It was a funny situation. They were kind of like all together, `What the hell is this guy doing?’ I was like, `All right, I’m a (freaking) idiot for a minute, let’s go back to the mound.’”
Does that sound like a self-assured, assertive person? Does it sound like someone who literally could fall down in mid-delivery for a balk that brought in a run, as he did in the fourth inning, then bang out that embarrassment like it was a clod of mud in his spikes?
Does it sound like the Lincecum, so comfortable in his skin, that the Giants once knew so well?
That’s what they got Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Lincecum didn’t post his most impressive linescore of 2012 but might have set a season high for smarts, spirit and spunk in a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
This time, he stayed out of the big inning. He didn’t give in with a runner in scoring position in the fourth, issuing walks to Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino rather than lay one in there. He didn’t fold from the stretch.
He was asked: Was that middle-in fastball to Placido Polanco, the one that resulted in an easy forceout for Pablo Sandoval, the turning-point pitch he’s been missing?
“It’s not one pitch,” he said. “It’s every pitch that leads up to it. If not for my fastball command, guys might have been sitting on my offspeed pitches and crushing it.”
Lincecum was able to establish his fastball command early, which meant he had another route to take the next time through the lineup. The Phillies couldn’t eliminate pitches when they saw Lincecum for a second time. He had the upper hand, and the ability to make the next adjustment. And he stayed ahead of the game, as he’s done so well over his career.
“He got into a jam and that’s the Timmy we know,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We saw it last year. We saw it again tonight.
“I noticed that his last start. He had a different look. He’s pitching with confidence. He didn’t get flustered by anything.”
All of the sudden, the Giants have won in four of Lincecum’s last six starts. That sounds relatively unremarkable for a two-time Cy Young Award winner. But consider that the Giants had dropped nine in a row before that.
“I’m not saying it means I’m back,” said Lincecum, throwing out some air quotes. “I’m just trying to get that consistency and use that as a springboard. … It’s just trying to buckle down in those crunch situations and not worry about what bad can happen to me, which is what I’ve been doing.”
We’ve mentioned several times where the Giants would be in the standings if they were just a .500 team in Lincecum’s starts. This season, he might not win back those “we’re going to win today” feelings that accompanied most of his starts in a Giants uniform. His struggles in the first three months were too shocking, too pronounced and too deep. There will be some shred of doubt for the rest of this season, at least.
But if the Giants can have a Lincecum who is able to laugh at himself, who can make the competition be about those 60 feet, 6 inches instead of the smaller space between his ears, and who can leave baserunners standing like 7-10 splits after he grinds through that third out, then that really does portend good things. The Giants really could get on quite a handsome roll.
In short order, they could become the bullies of the NL West.
“In short order, they could become the bullies of the NL West. ” - gave me goosebumps for no reason