SAN FRANCISCO Once upon a time, the Giants would docartwheels and hold sparklers when Tim Lincecum would take the mound in the rubber game of aseries.
Now theyre crossing their fingers.
Its hard to believe that the Giants have lost sevenconsecutive times with Lincecum on the mound. If hes battling any focusissues, hell have to purge them quickly. The Texas Rangers are the bestoffensive club in the majors.
What does Giants manager Bruce Bochy expect Sunday?
We have all the confidence when Timmy hits the mound. We alldo, Bochy said. Were all behind him. This is a special talent. HopefullyTimmys at the top of his game and gives us a chance. Thats all we ask.
It's a crazy thought, but maybe the Rangers are coming at a good time. Lincecumcertainly had swing-and-miss stuff in his last start against the San DiegoPadres (who are on other end of the color wheel from Texas, admittedly). He retired 11of the last 12 hitters, striking out eight of them.
But once again, he endured the big inning. And it followed thesame pattern: Some mistakes up in the zone, a walk or two, and then a fluky hit(a broken-bat double on a good pitch to Cameron Maybin). Its true, Lincecumsopponent batting average on balls in play (.330, well above the league averageof .298) indicates that he has been a bit unlucky this season.
Unlucky or not, a starting pitcher still has to compete.Luck, velocity, stuff, blisters, errors, poor run support none of it matters. Ifthe tides begin to rise, you have to find a way to throw more sandbags on thelevee. No matter how you fill them.
Lincecum hasnt been able to do it yet this season. Butthen, hes always been a bit of a sandbagger at heart. Weve seen him pitchwith a season on the line. The Rangers certainly would have a hard timebelieving that he struggled so mightily in August, 2010, with the way hepitched against them a little more than two months later.
So maybe the Rangers, as dangerous as they are, willrekindle some positive memories and some mojo. And maybe Lincecum will bringhis shovel and get back to work.
And if not? If the losing streak hits eight? Well, that's not the way Lincecum will want to go home. His next start will be his first at Seattle's Safeco Field.
Gregor Blancos baseball IQ qualifies him for baseball Mensa. On Twitter (@CSNBaggs) and in the Instant Replay file, I pointed out how he racedfrom left field to try to catch Mike Napoli napping off third base after asacrifice bunt. It nearly worked.
Blancos baserunning decision in the third was brilliant,too. He stopped rather than run into second baseman Ian Kinslers tag. The decision was so unexpected thatKinsler ended up throwing off the wrong foot and slinging the ball away. The Rangersrecorded no outs from what shouldve been a double-play grounder. It gave theGiants a run, too.
You'll hear scouts point to someone and say, "that's a winning player." This is what they mean.
Really nice game for Nate Schierholtz, who was masterful inright field even though he hasnt played there (or anywhere) with regularity inthe last six weeks or so.
Schierholtz also had two extra-base hits. He hadnt collected oneof those since his six-hit day in that April doubleheader at Citi Field in NewYork.
Bochy said he plans to get Aubrey Huff at-bats as the DHwhen the Giants play nine consecutive games in AL parks beginning Friday atSeattle. But Huff continues to hit pop-ups and show an absolute lack of batspeed. Its hard to argue with anyone who would tell Bochy the DH would bebetter used to rotate his outfielders, get Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan offtheir feet for a day or two, maybe do the same with Buster Posey, and get Schierholtz in the lineup more often.
Brandon Belt was 0-for-4 to drop his average to .228. He simply isnt getting the bloops and dinks and dunks that fell for him earlier inthe season. But hes also driving more pitches, even if most of them are findinggloves. When he's making contact, it's harder contact.
Bochy confirmed that Belt is working to incorporatechanges to his swing, and by all accounts, hes going to keep getting hischance.
Hes going to go out there and let his talent surface,Bochy said.
The Giants could move Pablo Sandoval to first base in thelong run, but Bochy made it clear thats not an option he wants to entertainnow. So Belt has no real competition for at-bats at the moment. But as the tradedeadline approaches, you can set your watch by this: GM Brian Sabean willdo everything possible to acquire a first baseman if Belt doesnt begin toproduce.
The Giants power outage at home is getting ridiculous.
Since Blanco homered May 14, the Giants have gone 15games (477 at-bats!) without a home run at AT&T Park. The 15-game stretchmatches the longest in franchise history (1980) and the longest by any majorleague team since the 1990 Houston Astros failed to homer in 16 consecutivegames at the Astrodome.
Heres the most ridiculous part: The Giants are 10-5 overthis homerless stretch at home.
Winning games, came Buster Poseys simple reply.
Cant argue with that. Youd rather have a lineup of playerswho know their limitations and accept their environment and knock doubles andtriples around the yard than a bunch of frustrated hackers who swing for thefences.
Lord knows Giants fans have seen plenty of Column B over theyears.