PHOENIX – Whenever I look up one of those “when was the last time ….” statistics during a game, a part of me is hoping I’ll have to go back a long way. Then it’s a stat with wow factor.
So when Tim Lincecum exited for a pinch hitter after allowing five runs on a career-high tying 10 hits and didn’t walk a batter, it occurred to me to look up the last time Lincecum went walkless.
I was surprised to find he hadn’t done it in 60 starts. Not since June 1, 2011.
It surprised me even more to see what his line looked like that day.
On 10 hits.
“St. Louis, right?” Lincecum said, with a precise memory. “Allen Craig took me deep. Cody Ross did something that day, I think. Aubrey hit a homer.”
Right, right and right.
Maybe Wednesday night’s start will stand out in Lincecum’s long-term memory, too. He always talks about eliminating walks. But obviously, that can’t come at the expense of allowing two hits an inning, as he did at Chase Field. He was on the hook for a loss before Brandon Belt’s three-run home run in the eighth rescued everyone in the Giants’ 9-6 victory.
So how should Lincecum think about this 10-hit, no-walk concoction?
“It comes back to keeping the ball down and making two-strike pitches out of the zone so they chase a little more,” he said. “I just wasn’t getting my changeup down and I wasn’t going to it enough, either.”
A pitch selection issue? Before anyone starts blaring the “Timmy and Buster don’t get along” trumpets, Lincecum followed up by saying that every pitcher second-guesses some pitch selections over the course of a game, and this was no different than any other start. He did wish he hadn’t abandoned his change, though.
“It’s not selection. It’s location,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was erratic in the zone, particularly with two strikes. … He had trouble with his put-away pitch tonight.”
Seems there are flecks of gold in every Lincecum start, amid the slurry. He hit 93 mph in the first inning. And he got arch-nemesis Paul Goldschmidt to bounce into a double play after the first two batters of the game singled. (Goldschmidt, who entered 8 for 14 with five home runs off Lincecum, also struck out and hit a bloop RBI single.)
“Doesn’t matter if it happened to be him or anyone else,” Lincecum said flatly. “I just wanted to get out of that inning.”
There are caution flags and warning signs that accompany Lincecum, to be sure. His 1.44 WHHIP is right there with his 1.47 mark from last season. He’s allowing too many baserunners, even if he’s making more pitches and escaping more jams.
But here is the only stat that really matters, in the final analysis: The Giants are 5-1 in Lincecum’s starts.
Last year, the Giants didn’t get their fifth win on Lincecum’s day until July 14 -- the second day back after the All-Star break.
Really. If you've forgotten, the Giants started the year 2-12 in his starts.
So while they haven’t been perfect, they’ve been much, much happier Lincecum days thus far in 2013.
I’m not sure why so many fans get on Santiago Casilla.
Here are his end-year ERAs as a Giant: 1.95, 1.74, 2.84 and 2.63.
He was 19 out of 20 in save situations early last year, and while he faltered due in large measure to a blister issue and ultimately yielded the closer role to Sergio Romo, he did manage to stabilize the bullpen when they most needed it following the loss of Brian Wilson to Tommy John surgery.
To hear it from some fans who lambaste Casilla at every opportunity, he’s just a guy trying to blow smoke and overpower hitters.
That’s not the Casilla that I often see. I see a right-hander with a plus fastball who has really grown as a pitcher. He has a spike curve, a slider that he can shape to match the situation, and a cutter as well.
And quietly, he recorded the biggest out in Wednesday’s game.
It was still a one-run margin when Casilla took over for Jean Machi with runners at the corners in the eighth. Up stepped Gerardo Parra, a talented left-handed hitter who was crushing right-handers for a .360 average and .573 slugging percentage. (He had a homer, two triples and nine doubles among his 28 hits against them.)
No problem. Parra was hitting .167 with no extra-base hits against left-handed pitchers.
Problem. The Giants only had one lefty in this series with Jeremy Affeldt (DL) and Jose Mijares (bereavement) out. And they’d used Javier Lopez already.
So it fell on Casilla to get a left-handed hitter out. He mixed his fastball, curve and slider – the last pitch getting through Parra’s swing – to record a strikeout.
“That’s why he closed to many games last year,” Lopez said. “You don’t do that unless you’re getting lefties out as well as right-handers. He stepped up again when we needed him the most.
“And it seems when he gets in spots where he’s used a lot, his offspeed stuff gets even better. He really executed.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever had quite the number of responses to an in-game tweet as I received in the ninth inning. That’s when Sergio Romo got hit on the left wrist by a throw, doubled over in pain, and then ran away from head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner like, as I described it, “the wench on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.”
A lot of my followers are Disneyland regulars, it seems. And yes, I know they changed the ride to make it politically correct. The original version can never be erased from my mind, though.
Oh, and Romo is fine.
“The throw handcuffed him,” Bochy said. “He was adamant he was fine. He’s a tough kid. He found a way to get it done.”
On 17 pitches, which is a lot for Romo. As I’ve written, he entered the game averaging an incredible 11.8 pitches over his 15 appearances. That’s why he’s been able to take the ball in almost all the Giants’ save situations.
I mentioned this in the Instant Replay, but it bears repeating: Romo hasn’t allowed a run to the Diamondbacks in 20 innings over 27 appearances – a streak that dates to Sept. 6, 2010.
That’s right. The last time Arizona scored against Romo, the right-hander had two fewer World Series rings than he does now.
Pablo Sandoval had an ouchie on his wrist, too, after it met Eric Chavez’s spikes on a tag play. Bochy said he didn’t even need to check on Sandoval, because the Panda didn’t say anything about it once he returned to the dugout.
In terms of pain threshold, I’ll put Sandoval right up at the top of the list.
Last one in the press box again, but I’m going to stick around a little longer. I want to see where Pence’s home runs lands.