Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

Thoughts preceding World Series Game1

Wednesday, Oct. 27

If you listen to the experts, there’s no way the Giants should win the World Series.

My employers, MLB.com, polled 15 writers or analysts; nine picked the Texas Rangers to win the Fall Classic. The disparity was much greater over at ESPN. Of the 28 wise people they surveyed, 22 predicted that the next champagne-and-beer shower will occur in Texas’ clubhouse.

It makes sense. Texas appears to play better defense, certainly possesses more speed and has more offensive thump.

But, as right-hander Matt Cain said, “If that’s what they’re writing, I guess we’ll have to change it.”

Moreover, the Giants have two equalizers: Their pitching and their pluck.

The American League boasts some strong pitching staffs — Minnesota, Boston and Tampa Bay are all above average. But when the Giants’ hurlers, particularly the starters, are on their game, they’re downright dominant.

Don’t be surprised if Tim Lincecum delivers a performance tonight that approaches his two-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout gem against Atlanta in Game 1 of the Division Series. I doubt that the Rangers have seen many pitchers like him, and pitches like his, in the American League.

Then there’s the matter of the Giants’ attitude. General manager Brian Sabean said after the Game 6 NLCS clincher at Philadelphia that this team might not always hit or pitch more effectively than its opponents, but it competes far better than most.

That resolve and spirit are what made the difference for the Giants down the stretch as they outlasted the Padres and Rockies. Their resolute approach has remained intact during the postseason, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue against the Rangers.

Finally, some personal observations: People keep reminding me to enjoy this experience, to savor it. I’m trying my best, though deadlines and commitments (thank you, Bob Seger) make it difficult to share the fans’ excitement and stop to smell the hot dogs all the time.

So today, as I approached AT&T Park, I took special care to appreciate as much as I could. I was amazed as I turned onto Third Street how many people were already surrounding the ballyard, though the first pitch was more than four hours away. I marveled at the boats beginning to fill McCovey Cove as I strolled across the Lefty O’Doul bridge. And I drank in the shouts of the vendors and the buzz of the fans, just as I did during my “formative baseball years” while attending games at Candlestick Park.

I don’t think I’ve ever sensed as much energy at a baseball venue as I did this afternoon. Anticipation is a wonderful tonic.

As I’m sure you’ll all agree, Play Ball!

– Chris Haft

Giants make sensible move with Cain

Early Thursday morning, Sept. 30

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ decision to move Matt Cain ahead a day in the pitching rotation so he can start Friday night’s opener of the climactic series against the San Diego Padres made complete sense.

The move wasn’t engineered solely to give Cain his usual four days’ rest. He actually has started almost as often on five days’ rest (14 times) this season as he has with four days in between (16). He owns a better record on four days’ rest (8-5) than on five (4-5). But Cain’s ERA and WHIP (2.57, 0.982) on five days’ rest are superior to his corresponding figures on four days’ rest (3.34, 1.153).

One reason to hasten Cain’s start by a day is to maximize the Giants’ chances of winning the first game and establishing control in the series. He has been San Francisco’s best pitcher since the All-Star break, as the club has captured 12 of his 14 starts. Personally, he’s 7-2, 2.48 in that span, compared to 6-8. 3.34 before the break.

The shift also keeps Cain and Tim Lincecum separated by two days in their respective turns. When it comes time to set the postseason pitching rotation, it’ll be that much easier for manager Bruce Bochy to make one little tweak and schedule them back-to-back — unless he and the rest of the braintrust decide that continuing to separate them with a left-hander throws enough different looks at the opposition.

Bottom line: These days, when Cain pitches, it seems like a sure win for the Giants.

*****

You, Joe or Josephine Fan, deserve a salute.

You’re showing up at AT&T Park in big numbers, but moreover, you’re enthusiastic as hell. The ballpark atmosphere is intoxicating (in a positive way), and it’s fun to be around.

Moreover, the players have noticed.

“We feed off of that every day,” said closer Brian Wilson, who’s one save shy of tying Rod Beck’s record of 48 set in 1993. “You can feel the crowd getting pumped up through the course of the game. … “They believe in us. And when you have that kind of fan support, it makes baseball a little easier.”

*****

We’ll give San Diego right-hander Mat Latos a break and assume that he’s a poor misguided young soul who just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

As you probably have heard by now, Latos told CBSsports.com’s Scott Miller, “Baseball works in funny ways. The only way I can honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with ‘San Francisco Giants’ across their jerseys. We didn’t. We added two guys [Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada]. We’ve been the same team all year. We haven’t just gone and grabbed guys from other teams.”

So, in the world according to Latos, there’d be no trades, certainly no Trade Deadline, maybe even no Minor League callups — none of the time-honored practices that ballclubs engage in to improve themselves.

Again, maybe Latos was speaking simply out of frustration or sour grapes. One thing’s for sure: If current trends hold up, it looks like the Padres should have added more than two players!

– Chris Haft

One step closer to the goal

Sept. 23

CHICAGO — With a few more days like Thursday, the Giants will indeed reach the postseason.

They gained ground on all of their rivals. The San Diego Padres lost, so the Giants leapfrogged them to reclaim first place in the National League West. The Colorado Rockies also fell, leaving them 3 1/2 games behind the Giants. San Francisco can all but officially end Colorado’s hopes for a division title by winning two of three games this weekend at Coors Field, which would put the Rockies 4 1/2 games back with a week remaining in the season.

NL Wild Card leader Atlanta was idle. But the Giants and Braves now have the same record (86-67). This bolsters the Giants’ hopes of qualifying for the postseason even if they don’t win the division.

Coolstandings.com lists San Francisco’s chances of reaching the postseason at 70 percent. That’s encouraging for the Giants, but I wouldn’t start computing their Magic Number yet.

*****

Bruce Bochy almost surely won’t win the NL Manager of the Year award. But my Baseball Writers’ Association of America brethren who possess ballots for that honor ought to pay at least cursory attention him.

A good manager must provide direction. Bochy has accomplished this twice in emphatic fashion.

After the Giants’ 11-3 loss to Arizona on Aug. 28, he and general manager Brian Sabean met with members of the starting rotation and essentially told them they had better shape up.

Tim Lincecum described the message Bochy and Sabean conveyed as “pretty much a sense of urgency. We need to come ready to play. No more worrying about where the ball’s going to go, what my mechanics are going to be. Just go out there. You’re here for a reason. Now play the game. Pretty clear-cut and simple.”

Since then, the starters have a 1.94 ERA.

And, of course, Bochy met with the hitters before Thursday’s 13-0 whipping of Chicago. “We came out with the right approach today,” Buster Posey said. “There was a little bit more fire in everybody. Hopefully that’s something we can continue for the next nine games. If we give this [pitching] staff some run support, we’re going to be pretty tough.”

*****

“Pretty tough” describes the challenge the Giants will face this weekend as they try to lengthen their 17-game streak of allowing opponents three runs or fewer — a stretch that hasn’t been matched since the Chicago White Sox reached 20 in 1917.

The Rockies are a formidable offensive club anywhere, but especially at Coors Field. Their home/road breakdown borders on unreal.

At home, the Rockies are a wrecking crew. They’re hitting .304 at Coors with 452 runs, 102 homers and an .880 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 75 games.

On the road, the Rockies are merely a wreck. Their numbers dip to .230 with 64 homers, 289 runs and a .663 OBP in 77 games.

*****

The Giants have existed since 1883. Yet none of their players had been hit by pitches twice in one inning until Thursday, when Jose Guillen was nicked by a pair of Ryan Dempster deliveries in the second inning. Juan Uribe homered following each plunking.

“Hey! Record book already,” Guillen said when told of his achievement.

*****

Had the Cubs won this week’s series from San Francisco, it wouldn’t have been their first time to ruin the Giants’ season.

You already know this if you’re either pushing 60 years old (at least) or an avid student of baseball history.

The 1959 Giants trailed the Dodgers by one game with five to play. That was after Los Angeles swept a three-game series at Seals Stadium to wrest first place from San Francisco.

Anyway, the Giants were still in the race. But consecutive one-run losses, 5-4 and 9-8 in 10 innings, pretty much finished their pennant bid. History didn’t repeat itself this time, however.

Instead, the Giants’ 13-0 rout Thursday represented their largest margin of victory over the Cubs since Sept. 3, 1963 (Juan Marichal won his 20th game that day as Orlando Cepeda, Tom Haller and Felipe Alou homered).

– Chris Haft

All-Star chance for Huff; praise for McCovey

Sunday, July 4

DENVER — The Giants just might send a third representative to the All-Star Game. But don’t count on it.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that Aubrey Huff is being considered as a replacement in case an existing National League All-Star is sidelined by injury.

Huff possesses decent statistics, including a .286 batting average to go with a team-high 15 home runs and 47 RBIs.

Huff demonstrated his value Sunday even while going 0-for-3. After drawing a one-out walk in the eighth inning — granted, he should have been out on a foul popup, but Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta and third baseman Melvin Mora let the ball drop — he further prolonged the inning with a takeout slide that prevented second baseman Jonathan Herrera from making a double-play relay to first.

Huff truly enhances his value defensively, however. He can play first base and either of the outfield corners. He would come in handy during the later innings of the All-Star Game after numerous players have been removed.

“That’s what would help,” acknowledged Bochy, whose remarks on the subject indicated that he has discussed it with Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, the NL All-Star manager. It all makes perfect sense, since Bochy is one of Manuel’s All-Star coaches.

Huff, who has never made an All-Star team in nine previous Major League seasons, received a hearty endorsement from teammate Brian Wilson, the closer who was chosen for his second Midsummer Classic along with Tim Lincecum, now a three-time All-Star.

“I think a guy who we all know should be going with us is Aubrey Huff,” Wilson said. “I can’t explain what the guy has done for us in our lineup. … The guy is more deserving than me, I feel.”

But since any of the NL’s five Final Vote candidates (San Diego right-hander Heath Bell, Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Vottto, Atlanta left-hiander Billy Wagner and Washington third baseman Ryan ZimmermanI) is likely to be considered as a late addition before Huff, don’t bet on seeing him in Anaheim on July 13.

*****

Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, received his props during TBS’ MLB All-Star Selection Show.

While commenting on the potential unavailability of Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward due to injury, former pitcher David Wells said, “Let’s just hope he does go. This guy is a stud. He’s done everything. He’s got the arm; he’s got the hits. He’s got that Willie McCovey-type swing.”

Wells respectfully added, for the benefit of younger viewers nationwide, “For those who don’t know Willie McCovey, he was a stud, too.”

– Chris Haft

Giants might have a winner with Bumgarner

Saturday, June 26

SAN FRANCISCO — What’s most impressive about Madison Bumgarner isn’t his fastball or his offspeed pitches or even his polished swing (that’s right, you should see him hit). It’s his poise.

Let it sink in: Bumgarner’s 20. He won’t turn 21 until Aug. 1. Yet he handled his 2010 Giants debut like a complete professional after those two rough early innings against the Boston Red Sox. He could have imploded after surrendering two quick homers and four instant runs, but instead he shut out the Major Leagues’ highest-scoring team for his final five innings.

Throw Bumgarner into the same category as Buster Posey. They’re not returning to Triple-A this year. Well, it’s possible, but it’s highly doubtful.

*****

Tim Lincecum remains extremely intriguing to watch. His outing Sunday against Boston will be no exception.

By winning his last three starts, Lincecum has indeed rebounded from his May slump (1-2, 4.95 in three appearances).

There’s just one mild sign of concern: Lincecum has allowed 28 hits in 29 innings spanning four outings in June. Allow me to emphasize the word “mild.” The bottom line is, Lincecum’s winning, and he looks much better than he did in May. But even he expressed some dissatisfaction over his yield of hits: “I kind of want it to be a little more simple and give up less hits,” he said last Tuesday after surrendering seven hits and an unearned run in eight innings at Houston.

Most pitchers probably would love to have this kind of worry. But Lincecum will be facing the Majors’ most potent offense — albeit without injured Dustin Pedroia and benched DH David Ortiz — so this will be a good test.

*****

Any of us lucky enough to live to age 91 should wish to be half as sharp as Monte Irvin is at that age. The former New York Giants outfielder, whose jersey number 20 was officially retired Saturday, remains witty and articulate, as the stories on the website demonstrate.

Saturday’s AT&T Park crowd was appreciative of all the Hall of Famers present, but the applause for Willie Mays seemed especially loud and long. I wouldn’t be surprised if James Hirsch’s remarkable biography, “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” has led readers/fans to rediscover the greatest Giant of them all.

– Chris Haft

Lincecum still must heat up

Sunday, June 6

PITTSBURGH — Any further improvement Tim Lincecum experiences will revolve around his fastball.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask catcher Bengie Molina, who has been behind the plate for almost every inning of Lincecum’s Major League career.

“The only thing we have to work on right now is the fastball location,” Molina said after the Giants’ 6-5, 10-inning victory Sunday at Pittsburgh. “Today was way better than before. It was a big step. That kid is going to be fine. He’s something else. He’ll find it again.”

Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones said that Lincecum’s fastball “just missed a few spots here and there.” Jones, who hit a two-run homer off Lincecum in the fourth inning, also said of Lincecum’s fastball, “I felt like it was straight today.” Now THAT’s not good for Lincecum. But the hitters always tell a pitcher how he’s doing, and in Lincecum’s case, he was good enough to win. “I stayed consistent throughout the game,” said Lincecum, who allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings while walking two and striking out six.

Next up for Lincecum: Friday night’s series opener against the Oakland A’s at AT&T Park. Think the crowd will be stoked?

*****

The baseball gods must have felt like they owed the Giants one. Juan Uribe’s ninth-inning RBI double, which broke a 3-3 tie, was a line drive to left field that Lastings Milledge dove for and nearly caught. But the ball grazed his glove and trickled away.

One night earlier, Milledge made a running, diving catch on the warning track of Freddy Sanchez’s bases-loaded thunderbolt to left field that probably would have tied the score 6-6. Instead, it was the final out in the Giants’ 6-3 loss.

*****

Giants vs. Reds: Division Series preview?

– Chris Haft

 

Food for thought: Cain or Lincecum?

Thursday, June 3

Matt Cain’s surge and Tim Lincecum’s slump might lead some to ponder a question that’s familiar to some Giants fans: Which right-hander will have a more productive career?

While the season is raging, the proper answer is, “Does it matter?” The Giants need both Cain and Lincecum to thrive to have any hope of reaching the postseason.

Still, this is a question many fans will continue to raise, and it is somewhat intriguing. Obviously, Lincecum has had much more early success with his two National League Cy Young Awards. But will Cain, with his classic pitcher’s build, outlast the undersized Lincecum?

At some point, the answer may become obvious. For now, the politically correct view is: Enjoy them both.

*****

Judging from the players’ visceral reaction, the Giants felt sick for Detroit’s Armando Galarraga, who lost a perfect game Wednesday due to umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call.

Yet a handful of veteran Giants also felt badly for Joyce, who they described as a decent man.

Joyce proved that by admirably owning up to his mistake. His error was profoundly egregious, but perhaps his accountability will endure as long as his goof.

The upshot of all this will be an increased presence of instant replay in baseball, if not all sports. Bank on it.

*****

Galarraga’s imperfect game overshadowed what normally would have been the day’s biggest story: Ken Griffey Jr.’s retirement. Here’s what Lincecum, a Seattle-area native who grew up watching Griffey, had to say about the slugger:

“He was the epitome of Seattle baseball, pretty much, him and Randy [Johnson]. He was that new face, they called him ‘The Kid,’ he was making those spectacular catches and always seemed like he was having fun. Almost like watching a different Pablo [Sandoval] … He had one of the prettiest swings I’ve ever seen.”
 
One enduring memory Lincecum doubtlessly shares with many Mariners fans is the sight of Griffey scoring the winning run in the 1995 Division Series against the Yankees and quickly being engulfed by overjoyed teammates. “I think that’s what a lot of us remember,” Lincecum said.
 
Lincecum also will treasure the memory of meeting Griffey for the first time in Spring Training this year. As Lincecum was interviewed after a Cactus League game at the Mariners’ training complex, Griffey parted a group of reporters to shake hands with the pitcher. “I went ‘uh’ — it kind of caught me off-guard,” Lincecum said. “Obviously it was a pleasant surprise for me.”
 
Lincecum recalled the little-boy feeling that stars like Griffey and Johnson gave him and his peers: “Those guys were gods of our worlds.”
 
 Chris Haft

Lincecum focuses on holding runners

Monday, May 31

SAN FRANCISCO — On the bright side, Tim Lincecum didn’t allow the Colorado Rockies to run wild on him Monday.

Lincecum paid much more attention to runners than he did last Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, who stole four bases off him. Against Colorado, Lincecum tried at least one pickoff throw for each runner reaching first base. A handful of times he looked the runner back by stepping off the mound. This sounds extremely simple, but it’s the kind of stuff Lincecum neglected earlier.

The Rockies still victimized Lincecum on the basepaths to some degree. Ian Stewart stole two bases, extending the success of larcenous opponents against Lincecum to 17-for-17 since last year and 14-for-14 in 2010 only.

As Lincecum said, he has plenty to work on.

*****

What are the Giants going to do with Aaron Rowand? Will they allow him to play his way out of his slump? Or will he soon get crowded out of his regular’s role in center field once Mark DeRosa (left wrist) returns from his injury rehabilitation assignment and Pat Burrell is summoned from Triple-A Fresno? Neither would directly replace Rowand, but Andres Torres conceivably could occupy center if manager Bruce Bochy wanted to keep him in the lineup and filled both outfield corners with other personnel.

Rowand spent much of the season at or near .300 until his last eight games. He’s hitting .091 (3-for-33) in that span, dropping his average to .227. He’s in a 1-for-18 skid (.056) with runners in scoring position. Oddly, the right-handed-batting Rowand is hitless in his last 19 at-bats against left-handers.

As much as Rowand has struggled, it’s difficult to envision his being banished to the bench. But the Giants are firmly entrenched in win-now mode, indicating that Bochy wouldn’t hesitate to sit Rowand if he wanted to try a different outfield contingent.

– Chris Haft 

In praise of Tim Lincecum

Monday, May 10

NEW YORK — Don’t forget: Tim Lincecum very well could be 7-0.

Lincecum has endured three consecutive no-decisions, including the Giants’ 6-5 victory Sunday at New York. In each game, Lincecum sustained stretches of shutout ball, was charged with no more than three runs and left the game with leads that the bullpen proceeded to squander.

The point here is not to rip the relief staff, which in the long run should preserve more of Lincecum’s victories than it spoils. This is just a reminder that Your Favorite Miniature Right-hander is pitching much better than his 4-0 record indicates.

Something that got overlooked in Sunday’s game coverage: Lincecum has become a much more complete pitcher. He has developed into such an effective bunter that it was a surprise to see him fail to sacrifice Ryan Rohlinger into scoring position in the fourth inning. Two innings later, Lincecum made a fabulous defensive play when he made an artful over-the-shoulder grab of Alex Cora’s impossibly high chopper and threw to first base for the out.

Lincecum has developed into a decent enough hitter to improve his .188 average and he’s obviously a deft fielder. If he can’t win a third Cy Young Award, how about a Silver Slugger or a Gold Glove?

– Chris Haft  

RF up for grabs; long look for Posey; new pact for Cain?

Friday, March 26
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will be the Giants’ Opening Day right fielder.

Schierholtz was virtually handed the right-field job before Spring Training began, but his pedestrian offense and John Bowker’s torrid hitting prompted the Giants’ braintrust to rethink matters.

Schierholtz is a superior defender who has proven capable of handling AT&T Park’s tricky acreage in right field. But he’s batting .234 with a .280 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts in 47 at-bats this spring. By contrast, Bowker began Friday tied for the Major League lead with 18 RBIs — due largely to his seven-RBI outburst Wednesday against Kansas City — and is hitting .298 with a .596 slugging percentage and a team-high four home runs.

Bowker also has been strikeout-prone, with 11 in 57 at-bats.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean confirmed that Schierholtz had slipped from his all-but-certain starting perch.

“He’s struggled to the point where you have to pay due respect to the other guys who are going well, including Bowker,” Sabean said Friday.

The Giants’ other reserve outfield candidates are Fred Lewis, who’s batting .222 but has a .528 slugging percentage; Andres Torres, who’s hitting .289 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .578 slugging percentage; and Eugenio Velez, a .298 hitter.<p/>

Referring to the preponderance of qualified outfielders, Sabean said, “Maybe our bigger challenge is how many infielders we keep over outfielders.” He cited left fielder Mark DeRosa, who can play every infield spot, and Velez, who made his first Cactus League appearance at second base Friday and booted a grounder for an error, as “dual-position guys” who can provide flexibility.

*****

Sabean also said that the Giants will keep Buster Posey with them through the conclusion of the exhibition season — though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the organization’s top prospect will make the Opening Day roster.

Reading between the lines of what Sabean said, it seems — <i>seems</i> — that Posey will begin the season with Triple-A Fresno. If that’s the case, Posey probably will join the Giants at the first sign of trouble.

“We’ll keep him to the end,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that the actual decision will need to go to the end. I think, internally, we know what we’re going to do, but obviously we’re going to hold that close to the vest because it’s subject to change and you never know what might happen.”

With the Giants trailing, 3-2, in Friday’s eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels, Posey hit a windblown ground-rule double that tied the score and lifted his average to .415 with nine RBIs. He has a .442 on-base percentage and a .585 slugging percentage. Manager Bruce Bochy said that there are no plans to try Posey at any position other than catcher and first base.

*****

Friday ended with no official announcement regarding the reported contract extensions for relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. This prompted speculation that the Giants are engineering an extension for a third player.

A likely suspect is right-hander Matt Cain, whose ridiculously affordable $6.25 club option for 2011 surely will be picked up by the Giants barring a disaster. It would behoove the Giants to reach an agreement with Cain. Otherwise, they’d enter the 2011-12 offseason facing the burden of negotiating with both Cain and Tim Lincecum, whose two-year deal will have expired.

– Chris Haft

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