Liotta: Lincecum not his usual self 

I’m not sure it’s necessary to sound an alarm, but I’m definitely concerned about Timothy LeRoy Lincecum.

The guy coming off a pair of Cy Young Awards who started the season 5-0 is 9-4 and has been getting hit pretty good the last month or so — a stretch chock full of not-so-fun facts for Giants fans. And I’m not letting him off the hook with his victory in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, a game in which he was staked to an 11-1 lead, a game that had all the intensity of spring training.

Going into that start, Lincecum had given up three or more runs in six of his previous nine starts — the worst nine-start stretch since the start of the 2008 season.

In those nine starts, Lincecum gave up 28 runs and 59 hits in 53¹⁄³ innings for a 4.73 ERA. FOUR-POINT-SEVEN-THREE. That’s Todd Wellemeyer territory, not Lincecum numbers.

Lincecum’s three victories in that nine-game stretch came against the Houston Astros, the Baltimore Orioles and the A’s — not exactly a collection of powerhouses. Even more alarming may be the fact that Lincecum had not beaten a team other than those three from April 23 until Wednesday’s win over the Brewers.

Over Lincecum’s 17 starts this season prior to Wednesday night, he had faced the Astros three times, and held that motley bunch to a pair of runs over 25 innings (a 0.72 ERA), winning all three starts. In his first 14 starts not against the Astros this season, Lincecum posted a 5-4 mark with a 4.04 ERA. Ugh.

I don’t claim to have a theory regarding Lincecum’s recent struggles — and, yes, those are struggles for a back-to-back Cy Young Award winner. I’m not blaming anything or anybody.

It’s simply a dip in performance that has me concerned, which, by the way, is not the only thing that concerns me about the Giants these days.

Is Pablo Sandoval a one-year wonder? Is this a sophomore jinx? Or have pitchers figured him out? He’s yet to find the groove that made him so productive last year, and nothing could be more important to the final three months of the Giants’ 2010 season.

Barry Zito looks to have reverted to the pitcher-formerly-known-as-Barry Zito the past month or so. Matt Cain has not taken that next step forward.

The no-name approach Brian Sabean has taken to the Giants’ veteran roster has suddenly taken a turn for the worse.
The toughest thing about baseball is that things that carry teams for 60, 81 or 120 games sometimes end up being simply a good short run. We won’t know until the season is over. And trust me, fans of the Padres are wondering how long their good fortune is going to last.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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