Freak Show: Lincecum continues Giants' rule over Dodgers 

click to enlarge Tim Lincecum
  • Ben Margot/AP
  • Tim Lincecum continued his strong start to the season Wednesday, throwing seven shutout innings — allowing only three hits — in the Giants 4-0 win over the Dodgers.

Tim Lincecum, the classic version.

Almost.

The former San Francisco Giants ace continued his surprising dominance Wednesday night, shutting down a suddenly meek Los Angeles Dodgers lineup over seven shutout innings. The Giants won 4-0, a fourth consecutive win that pulled them within 2½ games of first place in the National League West as the Dodgers have managed just two runs in their last four games and suddenly have a world of concern about their club.

Lincecum allowed three hits and walked two, giving him 21 on the season, tied for fifth most in the league. He left every one of those runners on base, though, and lowered his ERA to 2.08, seventh lowest. His four strikeouts moved him into fourth on the franchise's all-time strikeout list with 1,680.

He also has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive innings at AT&T Park.

"I've found a good rhythm on this mound and I'm trying to ride it out for as long as it is," Lincecum said. "I've got confidence in all my pitches. It's about executing."

His biggest jam came in the fifth inning when Yasmani Grandal reached third with nobody out. Lincecum stranded him without a strikeout, his escape weapon during his glory days.

Lincecum has stranded runners at an 80 percent rate this year despite a 19.2 percent strikeout rate that was slightly below the National League average (19.4) entering Wednesday, according to Fangraphs. The league average strand rate is 73 percent this season.

Last year, the league's top five starters in strand rate all had ERAs in the twos or lower. All five of them had strikeout rates of 15 percent or higher and walk rates in the single digits. Lincecum's walk rate entering his latest start was 11.4.

Considering those numbers, it is a wonder Lincecum has been able to leave runners on base the way he has. But a significant spike in ground balls has led directly to an almost nonexistent home run-to-fly ball ratio.

In the last three seasons, Lincecum's ground-ball rate has lived between 45-47 percent. This season it rocketed to 52.2 percent. That is a major factor in his HR/FB ratio going from 14 percent in 2014 to below three percent this season — he's allowed one home run in 47²⁄³ innings.

Pitch selection has plenty to do with that. Lincecum has upped his sinker use nearly 10 percent from a season ago, although he mixed in a high four-seamer against the Dodgers. He now throws the sinker with the most frequency of any of his pitches (27 percent entering Wednesday), according to BrooksBaseball.net.

That says Lincecum is keeping the ball lower in the strike zone more often. Pitches down mean more grounders and fewer home runs.

That part of Lincecum's resurgence he can somewhat control because it is based on pitch selection and location. It is sustainable even if some of his other rate stats don't seem to be.

However, if he continues getting ground-ball outs while stifling home runs, those other numbers could hold and this could be a return to dominance for the former two-time Cy Young winner.

"His experience is coming in," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's probably reinvented himself a little bit. He's got a lot of confidence and swagger right now."

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Anthony Witrado

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