Defense helps Lincecum; Wilson lauds Mariano; Rowand hurt
ST. LOUIS – For the first 4 2/3 innings Monday night, while it seemed as if Tim Lincecum might pitch a no-hitter, a handful of close calls and sparkling plays stood out.
Albert Pujols ended the fourth inning by scorching a line drive directly at third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Had it traveled a few feet in any other direction, it would have been a double.
Second baseman Juan Uribe preserved Lincecum’s perfect game in the fifth inning by darting up the middle to snare Chris Duncan’s smash on one hop and make an off-balance but strong throw to first base for the out.
Then Rick Ankiel swung at Lincecum’s very next pitch and broke his bat but managed to bloop the ball into right-center field for a single.
Still, I remain convinced that Lincecum or Matt Cain will throw a no-hitter someday.
Even Bruce Bochy admitted that thoughts of Lincecum pitching a no-hitter crossed his mind, though that’s not the kind of thing a manager often admits.
“To be honest, yeah,” Bochy said. “That’s a good-hitting ballclub over there. But with Timmy, sure.”
But Bochy added, with Ankiel’s hit squarely in mind, “It takes a lot of luck to throw a no-hitter.”
Giants closer Brian Wilson, who has listened ad nauseum to coaches and managers telling him that he must mix up his pitches more, seized upon Mariano Rivera’s milestone 500th save as an example of a pitcher who excels without variety.
“The guy’s gone after hitters with one pitch his whole career,” Wilson said, referring to Rivera’s cut fastball. “Pitching coaches always harp on getting a third pitch, a fourth pitch, and he has always been the case where I’d say, ‘Well, Mariano’s got one pitch, so” — and then dot, dot, dot.
“It’s such a good pitch that it’s really four different types of pitches. He can throw it front door to a righty, back door to a lefty, he can throw it to the other side of the plate and he can throw it down. Maybe that’s all you need. His plate zone because of that pitch is expanded.”
Center fielder Aaron Rowand left Monday’s game in the seventh inning after he was hit above the left knee by a pitch from St. Louis’ Clayton Mortensen, who was making his Major League debut. Rowand hopes to play Tuesday, though he sported an ugly bruise on his leg that’s likely to swell.
– Chris Haft