What’s to worry? Tim Lincecum wasn’t going winless this season. You mean you thought that was possible? Oh, ye of little faith. And of first-inning jitters. True, he’s not where he would hope to be, but neither is he where he was.
“Baby steps,” was Lincecum’s observation. For Giants fans, it was more like, “Oh, baby, what a step.”
It had been a difficult beginning, for Lincecum, and for the Giants, giving fans and journalists, two groups lacking patience and often perspective, a reason to act as if the sky were dropping when Tim’s sinker was not.
But he has his victory, 6-1 over the Mets, and then the same Monday evening, the Giants got a second win in a doubleheader, 7-2 behind Madison Bumgarner.
New York? You know the lyric. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. The Giants, who were
0-3 and then 2-5, have compiled a 9-8 record after Tuesday’s 9-2 loss in Cincinnati.
“You get so caught up in the negatives,” a candid Lincecum told reporters in New York, “you start forgetting about the positives.”
For the Giants, the positive remains pitching. Lincecum, if with an unsightly 8.20 earned run average (it was above 14), appears once more to be effective, if not yet impressive.
Baseball is a game of adjustment. Lincecum has been seeking a correct release point after that unique windup. He found it in the first inning against the Mets, then lost it. What he didn’t lose was the game.
Six runs for the Giants? For too long, Lincecum and the rest of a staff that with Bumgarner, Matt Cain, suddenly Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong arguably, is the best in baseball, couldn’t get six runs in a week. Every game was, to borrow that accurate slogan, sweet torture, grimaces and deep breaths.
The Giants traded for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. Buster Posey returned. Pablo Sandoval got hot. It’s easier on the pitchers. It’s easier on the fans.
On the postgame Comcast show, Shawn Estes, who was the Lincecum of the early 2000s, said Tim “tries too hard to make the perfect pitch.” But that is to be expected when his performances were unexpected.
Lincecum won two NL Cy Young Awards. He holds himself to a higher standard. So does management after giving him $40 million for two years.
Up in the broadcast booth, Duane Kuiper, watching Lincecum, mused he “resembled Jonathan Sanchez,” the chew-your-fingernails lefty San Francisco sent to Kansas City for Cabrera. Sanchez would walk too many (Lincecum gave up five walks to the Mets), but somehow stayed in the game.
Monday, Lincecum received offensive support and some excellent defense by infielders Emmanuel Burriss and Brandon Crawford, a combination teams need to succeed. It used to be if Tim or Cain or any starter allowed more than one run, the Giants were in trouble. No longer. They hit. They field. Lincecum pitches.
“Think simple, stupid — just throw,” Lincecum said of his modest success. “I felt like I just took my confidence and said, ‘Screw the rest’ and stopped worrying about the outcome.”
Which finally was the proper one.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.