SAN FRANCISCO When you absorb the worst postseason shutoutloss in franchise history, the feel-good moments usually end with thethundering flyover during the National Anthem.
Tim Lincecum provided one more turbo boost, such as it was.
Lincecum, the cause of so much consternation this season,made his third career relief appearance his second in a playoff game andtemporarily stoked a sellout crowd when he took the mound in the sixth inningSunday night.
Lincecum retired six of seven batters over two scorelessinnings, earning a standing ovation from fans who otherwise used their rallyrags to dab at their eyes in a 9-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy needed a couple clean innings tokeep a four-run game from splitting open. But maybe he also hoped Lincecumcould pep up the paying customers, and by extension, cause a stirring in some of hishitters.
Its hard to get the crowd into it when you dont getrunners on base, Bochy said.
The crowd down the left field line responded as soon asLincecum peeled off a gray sweatshirt and made his way to the bullpen mound tojoin lefty Jose Mijares in the bottom of the fifth. Lincecum only made two orthree warmup tosses as Brandon Belt broke up Bronson Arroyos perfect game witha single. Gregor Blanco grounded out to end the inning, and there was aconfused moment as Lincecum, already back in the dugout, was told to take themound.
RATTO: It's do or be done for Giants
The Giants called back Mijares, who had gotten as far as theinfield dirt.
We told both of them, Blanco, if he gets up, were going todouble switch, Bochy said. I think they were confused because the pitcherdidnt come up, but he said he was ready. He doesnt throw much anyway, Timmy,and he went out there and did a great job.
Lincecum threw 17 of his 25 pitches for strikes and left to a standing ovation, although it was a sugar high. The Giants didn't get a runner into scoring position until the eighth inning -- and that came, poetically, on defensive indifference.
The game exploded in the eighth, but Bochy didn't want to send Lincecum out there for a third inning. He said he took out his two-time Cy Young Award winner turned mop-up man to savehis pitch count, both to keep him a viable option to appear in relief again andalso to preserve him for a potential start.
All those options are open and I was glad to see him throwlike that, Bochy said. He was really good, I thought good with his commandand he kept the ball down and had all his pitches working.
Now we have the option, if he wants, or we want to use himin the pen in the first or second game in Cincinnati. Or start him if we havethat option.
Picking a Game 4 starter? Now thats a dilemma the Giantswould be thrilled to have.
Some folks are bound to speculate that the Giants are gettingtheir tails kicked because they clinched too early. I dont buy that.
But I do think the Giants soft schedule in September isworking to their disadvantage, in a sense. They didnt have to face muchfirst-division pitching while feasting on the Rockies, Padres and the like.They didnt see many lineups that had the kind of talent and continuity thatthe Reds throw at you on a given night. And although the Giants have shown anability to rally, they havent had to do it against the team with the lowestbullpen ERA in the National League.
Bottom line time: the Giants starters arent pitching wellenough -- even in their shelteredcove. There is no more certain way to get bounced from a short series
Wheels up in six hours for me, with a stop in Chicago andthen a 50-mile drive from Dayton to Cincinnati.
If this is the last game Ill cover at AT&T Park thisseason, its been entirely memorable. And for one night, perfect.