DENVER There is plenty of math in baseball. Here are somefun numbers for Giants fans to contemplate:
If the Giants merely go 8-9 to finish the season, theDodgers must go 15-4 to tie them atop the NL West standings. Oh yeah: And theDodgers have a home series coming up with the wild-card jousting St. LouisCardinals, followed by a road trip with stops in division-leading Washington and Cincinnati.
Or if you prefer the neat and tidy version: The Giantsmagic number is 13.
They took one more step toward their second NL West title inthree seasons and their ninth since moving to San Francisco, beating theColorado Rockies 8-3 behind Tim Lincecum in yet another thumper at Coors FieldWednesday night.
Combined with the Dodgers third consecutive loss, theGiants stretched their NL West lead to seven games with 19 to play.
Trailing the Dodgers for most of the season, the Giants tookfirst place July 14. Since then, they are 8-0-1 in nine road series. AndLincecum, for all his trials this season, has won five consecutive road starts something hes never accomplished before in his career.
Lincecums key moment came in the sixth inning, with theGiants leading 5-3 and the Rockies threatening. Giants manager Bruce Bochy cameout from the dugout following Charlie Blackmons pinch double, but thedouble-time in his step told everyone that he wasnt going to ask for thebaseball.
He wanted to look his pitcher in the eye and make sure hesaw what he wanted to see.
Lincecum went slider-curve-fastball to strike out DexterFowler and complete a six-inning performance that lacked aesthetic appeal butfilled the bill.
I said, Youre the guy right now. Focus on your pitches,Bochy said. He made three great pitches there. I think he knew that was hislast hitter so he gave it his all.
Your starters are critical for you, believe me. Weve had acouple guys have their hiccups. Hes picked up his game and helped to pick usup.
Lincecum has a 3.33 ERA in the second half after a 6.42 ERA before the All-Star break. More to thepoint, the Giants are 10-6 in his last 16 starts after beginning the year 2-12in his first 14 assignments.
It feels good from a personal standpoint, Lincecum said.You want to get better as the year goes along. Ive completely eliminated myfirst half from my mindset. My second half has been a little better and knowingwhat were striving for, and what direction were going into, that motivationis a little deeper.
Is he ready to take the ball in the front three of a playoffrotation? Where would the Giants slot Lincecum, who carried them so far in2010?
Those are questions that do not require answers for a coupleweeks still. But Lincecum said he would be ready for the stage when it arrives.
Right now Im not pitching great, but Im getting out ofjams, which was a lot different than the first half, he said.
Hed also like to be more efficient. Lincecum has thrownmore than 100 pitches in each of his last three starts but hasnt made it intothe seventh inning. And there are those walks four more on Wednesday,including three in the first two innings.
Including his two previous starts, Lincecum became the firstGiants starting pitcher since John DAcquisto in 1976 to walk at least onebatter in 10 consecutive innings. Thats not a distinction he embraced, even ifonly two of those 11 walks came around to score.
Im messing with fire there, obviously, he said. It onlytakes one blooper to turn it into a big inning. Its a fine line, but it givesme confidence to know Im in a jam and can get out of it.
Now the Dodgers, for all their high-priced acquisitions, arein the thick of it. While they try to rattle off an improbable run against someof the top teams in the NL, the Giants will play their next 16 games againstthe Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres.
Theres one way the West is being won: The Giants are 32-21against division opponents. The Dodgers are 28-35. Thats a nine-game swingbetween the clubs.
Dont expect Bochy to take it easy or start skippingstarters or playing reserves anytime soon, though. Heck, he used sevenrelievers to get nine outs at Coors Field. He even used Guillermo Mota, JavierLopez and Sergio Romo one batter at a time to get through the ninth, despite afive-run lead.
Is he being paid by the pitching change?
Well, I think we all know this ballpark, Bochy said. Youdont want a rally getting started because once it starts, its hard to stop.
Confidence works that way, too. The Giants are awash in it.