SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum has one start remaining in theregular season one more chance to assemble his rhythm and his confidence likea tax return, with all documents in the proper order.
He has received so many supporting statements from BruceBochy over this checkered season. But the Giants manager could not play off thewreck of a start he observed in a 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesdaynight.
It was obvious from the beginning, from the first hitter,that he was out of sorts, said Bochy, who pulled Lincecum two batters into the fifth inning with the Giants trailing 5-1. Hes been throwing well. This isone hes got to put behind him. He just couldnt find his rhythm out there tonight.
Until this year, Lincecum always found it precisely when heneeded it. Thats why there wasnt a great panic in the spring when hestruggled to locate his fastball or put away hitters. He would put that aside,hit the mound on opening day and pitch another gem, just as he always had.
Except this year, he didnt. Five batters into his season,he trailed 3-0 at Chase Field after home runs by Chris Young and personalnemesis Paul Goldschmidt.
Lincecum didnt find it until he began to put together arespectable run in the second half. Even with that nice streak, which includedfive consecutive road victories for the first time in his career, his seasonERA still stood at 5.15 at the close of business Tuesday ranking him 47thout of 47 NL pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.
Now he has one more start next week to figure it out beforethe Giants would hand the ball to him in the postseason. At this stage, a start cannot be considered guaranteed. But if he gets one, it would be hisfirst since Game 5 of the 2010 World Series -- when he became the first pitcherin franchise history to win a championship clincher.
Can he hope to find it again? What will he hope to achievein his final chance to fine-tune?
I just want to attack hitters a lot better, said Lincecum,who wasnt injured or affected by a come-backer that glanced off his glove. Itsbeen a lot of favorable counts for the batters and Ive been walking a lot ofguys lately. So its trying to alleviate that, try to make it easier on myselfby just throwing better strikes. That kind of goes back to believing in whatthe catchers putting down and trusting it and not worrying about what happensother than that one pitch.
Lincecum wasnt the only one out of sync against theDiamondbacks. Catcher Hector Sanchez let one wild pitch go between his legs,allowing a run to score. Sanchez had a passed ball, too.
It seemed both of them were off tonight, Bochy said. Ithappens. Youd like to see these guys get locked in this time of year. Theyllhave to put it behind them.
Said Lincecum: It wasnt always about Hector or the pitcheshe was calling. It was a matter of me not hitting my spots and making it toughon him back there with throwing in the dirt, pitches at the head. It was apretty erratic day. He had to make an adjustment to what I was doing instead ofthe other way around.
Prior to the game, Bochy said whoever catches Lincecum inhis regular-season finale is likely to be his battery mate in the postseason.The smart money is on Sanchez again. Lincecum has hardly thrown to Buster Poseyat all in the second half.
Thats one of many things about Lincecum that fans arefinding curious these days. Another was his conspicuous absence from the teamsNL West clinching celebration Saturday night; Lincecum left the game in theseventh inning, even though the Giants were just a handful of outs away from winning.Bochy said its customary for the next days starting pitcher to leave earlywhen a day game follows a night game; the manager expressed regret that hedidnt tell Lincecum he planned to scratch him and start Yusmeiro Petit if theGiants clinched.
It was kind of bittersweet, Lincecum said. Obviously wewon and all. But uh, obviously not being here to share with the team, that waskind of tough. But hopefully things go right and we can celebrate another wayand thatll be a better celebration.
It will be hard to imagine the Giants staging anothercelebration or three unless Lincecum is on his game.
At least he wont have to pitch to the Diamondbacks again.He was 0-3 with a 7.16 ERA in three starts against them, and Goldschmidt hasrocked him for five home runs in just 14 career at-bats.
Right now Ive got something to strive for, getting to thepostseason, but its definitely going to be in the back of my mind, this team,and what theyve done to me, he said.
I think it just comes back to throwing strikes. I feel thegames Ive had that went bad against these guys its been leaving pitches up,which you cant do at their field. And I just havent gotten out of the jamsIve needed to make the outings against the Diamondbacks look better.
Lincecum said he plans to throw an extra time off a bullpenmound, suggesting hell get more time between now and his next start as theGiants rearrange their rotation for the postseason. Then itll be deadline day.
Death and taxes are certain. This season, Lincecum has been anything but.