CHICAGO Here is what Tim Lincecum is thinking right now:
Take out the statistics. When Ive had to dig deep, Ivedone it.
This is not Timmy the rookie curiosity, who whipped pitcheswith ferocity. This is not Timmy the Cy Young Award winner, who didn't need to read scouting reports to level a lineup.
What we have now is Timmy the veteran. He has been to the top and back down. He has a track recordand hes going to lean on it, dammit. He was 0-5 during a miserable August2010, and he turned it around so dramatically by sparkling all throughSeptember, then into the postseason, then standing on the mound and dominatingin the only November game in franchise history.
You remember how that one ended. Timmy does, too.
If this first half is my terrible August (of 2010), thatswhat it is, said Lincecum, after pitching the Giants to a 5-2 victory over theCubs at Wrigley Field. Weve just got to keep pushing hard and heading in theright direction. So Ill do that.
We know whats at stake. We know how to do it.
They knew what was at stake last season, too. People neverstopped reminding them. There was a Showtime documentary series. There wereheightened expectations. There was the Carlos Beltran trade. They were supposedto defend. But with the lens trained on them, and the Arizona Diamondbacks kickingup dust behind them, the Giants burned up down the stretch.
Lincecum admitted this spring that all the pressure todefend their World Series title became a distraction. Their motivations wereexternal to not let people down and not internal, as they should have been.The Giants culture in 2010 was so unique because, to a man, they had an earnestdesire to win for the player one locker over. It was a defiance, of sorts. Theyplayed without fear because they had nothing to lose.
Last years team had a crown to lose.
When you win a World Series, its not often you win anotherone the next season, Lincecum said in a cramped Wrigley clubhouse. You wantthat one and you fight for it, but it can be a different fight. Its not thegrind youre looking for, and you can focus on the wrong things. This year,were focused on ourselves and not what theyre doing on our heels. Simplifyingit is really helping.
Lincecum feels like hes back in nothing to lose modeagain. Theres certainly no rescuing the back of his baseball card, as heentered Saturday with a 7-14 record and 5.30 ERA.
But imagine if Lincecum can replicate his finish from twoseasons ago, when he went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA in his final six assignments.
Ive already done it before, he said. Ive been there. Ican do it.
It wont be easy. Lincecum has battled to repeat hismechanics all season. Hes 28 now, hes thrown 19,347 pitches in a relativelycompressed span, and its only natural for some air to escape the balloon.
This deep into this brow-furrowing season, there is no suchthing as a hes back start.
But there were encouraging signs at Wrigley Field. For one,Lincecum was able to throw his fastball inside to right-handed hitters something he was totally incapable of doing in his previous start against theAtlanta Braves, and on many other occasions this season.
For another, Lincecum had choices in big moments. He couldthrow his slider whether behind or ahead in the count. With two strikes, hecould throw his curveball as a chase pitch or a freeze pitch (hello, AlfonsoSoriano). His changeup faded when he needed it.
He had confidence in all his pitches and used them, saidGiants manager Bruce Bochy, almost seeming refreshed to put those wordstogether. He was mixing it up, hitting his spots, throwing any pitch at anytime. Thats what he does when hes on.
What felt best, Lincecum said, was leaving the game inthe situation I did, with the lead.
Lincecums spot in a potential playoff rotation is yet to beestablished, too, although I cant imagine any scenario besides an injury thatwould lead the Giants to leave him out of the top four.
And theres no way I see Lincecum pitching his way off aplayoff roster.
The Giants felt from the day they drafted Lincecum that ifhe didnt prove durable enough to make 30-plus starts, he could be apotentially dominant weapon in relief. Hes resilient, he never ices and hegets loose in five or six tosses.
I still believe there will be a time in Lincecums careerwhen he goes the John Smoltz route and becomes a closer. I doubt he or hisagent would embrace that notion next year, as Lincecum comes up on free agencyfor the first time. But itll happen someday.
Lincecum was asked by plate umpire Dan Iassogna to take offhis bracelets during the game. The Cubs complained they were a distraction.
Lincecum scowled, but complied. He said teams usually dontsay anything, but hes received the request before. It wasnt anything new.
Lincecum figures that Xavier Nady deserves a uniformpromotion from No. 68 after hitting a bases-clearing double in his first game asa Giant. As for his own number, Lincecum said he had No. 60 in his first springtraining and he never asked for No. 55 when he arrived in the majors. Clubhousemanager Mike Murphy just gave it to him.
It seemed appropriate enough. He threw hard, and 55 isassociated with the speed limit.
Yeah, and thats what I think about all the time when I seeone driving, Lincecum said. Ive gotta steal one of those.
Joaquin Arias began taking fly balls in left field onSaturday. Hell start at shortstop Sunday and Monday, as the Giants faceleft-handers. Bochy said he didnt want to burn out Arias with a bunch of earlywork on the days he is in the starting lineup, but the discussion continues
Noticed this while looking at some statistical splits:
The Giants have one home run all season from their second basemen.They have two from their pitchers.