Giants pillar crumbling 

click to enlarge Not what they used to be: With lefty Barry Zito, left, coming down to earth in his past couple starts, and Tim Lincecum still struggling to regain his form, the Giants will be forced to produce more offense to compete. - US PRESSWIRE FILE PHOTO
  • US Presswire File Photo
  • Not what they used to be: With lefty Barry Zito, left, coming down to earth in his past couple starts, and Tim Lincecum still struggling to regain his form, the Giants will be forced to produce more offense to compete.

The Giants can’t afford to lose when they score five runs, but when your starting pitcher can’t get out of the fourth inning, you’re doomed to lose virtually every time.

“Bad Barry” is back, folks, and his return comes at a most unfortunate time.

Zito, for the third consecutive start, was awful Tuesday night. And with Tim Lincecum having been awful for the bulk of the season, that brings to two the number of hold-your-breath guys in what most experts anticipated being the best rotation in baseball.

Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong are rocks. Madison Bumgarner is getting there; he’ll have a hiccup now and then, but he usually bounces right back.

Zito and Lincecum? Hoo boy, time to get a little wigged out, Giants fans.

Here’s where the lack or organizational rotation depth really comes to the fore. There’s no viable option to replace either guy, no callup that comes immediately to mind who inspires any real confidence. And that suggests that the team might have factored a little too much hope into the rotation equation this year, and hope should never be a major part of any strategy in any endeavor.

The best option at Fresno right now is right-hander Eric Hacker, who as of Thursday was 10-3 with a 4.04 ERA. But he’s 29 years old, so he’s far past the prospect age, and that generally means he’s been deemed unworthy of being trusted to produce on a consistent basis in the bigs.

So who’s a safer bet to get bounced from the rotation should a change have to be made? Zito or Lincecum?
Suddenly, it’s a fascinating debate. The answer: Zito.

The reason is simple: Zito hasn’t had a good year with the Giants. Good months, brilliant stretches, sublime outings — but never a good year. Lincecum, in a three-year stretch from 2008-2010, won two Cy Young Awards and a World Series title in orange and black.

That means something. That buys a man time. Zito? He’s forever on borrowed time, and it’s borrowed from Oakland.

Thus, if you’re wondering who’s more under the gun, it’s clearly Zito. Lincecum’s rope is as long as the eye can see.

LeBRON STEPS UP: LeBron James is finally getting his due as one of the greatest players we’ll ever see. He’ll never, ever be respected or adored by some casual fans, the obvious product of his unintentionally comical TV special built around his decision to join the Miami Heat two offseasons ago, but if you know ball, you appreciate the man for what he is on the court and let the silly stuff go.

The one knock that even hardcore hoop fans have on him before this postseason was that he hadn’t yet shown the ability to put his team on his back when it really mattered, but that’s been laid to waste after he led the Heat to the NBA championship. The 3-pointer he drilled before he left the court for good with debilitating cramps in Tuesday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals was his fourth bucket of the series with the game inside the 5:00 mark and the two teams within five points of each other.

He was clutch against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, and he was clutch against the Thunder. So we can bag the “He’s not clutch” talk forever now.

Speaking of stars in the clutch, you think Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden might have a few things to learn yet? Of course they do. They are 23, 23 and 22 years old, respectively. They’re puppies, for crying out loud, yet they’re running with the big dogs.

The great thing is, they’ll be running with them for a long time. Assuming health, expect to see the Thunder and Heat square off in the Finals for the next four years or so, creating a rivalry rivaling Celtics-Lakers.
Great fun on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the increasingly dull NBA.

SPEED ROUND: Loved the Joel Peralta story; he got booted from a game for having pine tar on his glove, taking you back to the simple times of real-man cheating.Not so manly was the pissing match between Nationals manager Davey Johnson and Rays manager Joe Maddon. Grow up, kids. ... Roger Clemens is a free man. Does anyone care? Doubtful. But hey, it only cost the government an estimated $10.5 million. Shameful. ... And finally, a word on the NFL. Actually, several words: Wake me up when the workouts mean something. OTAs? Stop it. Blood from a rock. Enough.

About The Author

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).
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