Lincecum: 'I didn't give my team a chance'
The Giants committed three errors Wednesday and now have 25 in the month of May. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – You’d be correct to say that Tim Lincecum is marginally better than he was last year.
It is not the most encouraging of margins, however.
Last year, Lincecum’s 5.18 ERA was the highest among all qualified NL starting pitchers. His ERA now stands at 5.12 after he littered the field with mistakes in a 9-6 loss to the A’s Wednesday night.
You remember last year. The fall was so sudden and so stunning for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, it was easier to pretend you weren’t really seeing it. The Giants managed to withstand it only because the rest of the rotation pumped out quality starts on the other four days.
Here is the hard truth: The Giants cannot absorb a bad Lincecum anymore. And nobody can be blind to it.
Lincecum was an emblem, but not the whole story as the Giants committed three errors while losing to the A’s for the third consecutive day.
This, in short, is bad, bad baseball. The Giants have received two quality starts in 15 games. They keep combining physical mistakes with mental ones. Their 25 errors in May are the most in the major leagues. And for a third consecutive night, their offense couldn’t do enough in the early innings against an A’s pitcher who entered with an ERA over 5.
It has to get better, and fast, if the Giants are to keep from imploding before Independence Day. After finishing up with the A’s on Thursday, they’ll play 22 of 31 games on the road – and 19 of those will come against clubs with winning records.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum (3-5) has to battle harder than ever to work clean innings. The last thing he needs is to be his own enemy, to lose focus, to make avoidable mistakes like forgetting to cover first base.
That happened in a messy fifth inning that he did not escape.
But Lincecum’s struggles began much earlier. He issued a leadoff walk to Coco Crisp in the first inning – never a good way to begin – and then he appeared to chuckle to himself after Yoenis Cespedes took a huge cut at a 3-1 fastball and fouled it back to the screen.
The last thing you’d expect is for Lincecum to throw another fastball, especially after Cespedes almost cleared the McDowell Mountains with two home runs off Lincecum this spring.
But after resetting the signs with catcher Buster Posey, a fastball is exactly what followed. Cespedes drove it to dead center for a triple. Then the A’s went ahead 2-0 when second baseman Marco Scutaro and right fielder Hunter Pence converged on Josh Donaldson’s blooper. Scutaro dropped it for an error, but Pence might have been just as blameworthy for not calling off the infielder.
Lincecum had to pitch out of trouble in the fourth when Seth Smith legged out a double on a ground ball that snuck past Scutaro’s diving attempt. It would have been a highlight play if Scutaro had made it, but even an average second baseman normally keeps that ball on the infield.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy made a rare mound visit before Lincecum got a strikeout, issued an intentional walk to load the bases, then retired pitcher Tommy Milone on a fly ball.
But the A’s pestered Lincecum again in the fifth, and all the limp body language that accompanied so many of his starts last year appeared to resurface. Crisp singled and Jed Lowrie hit an RBI double before Lincecum rallied long enough to throw four quality offspeed pitches to strike out Cespedes.
Then Donaldson followed with a hard grounder to the right side. First baseman Brett Pill knocked it down and might have had a play, but Lincecum never made a move to cover the bag as the A’s loaded the bases. John Jason followed with a line single to left field to knock Lincecum from the game.
Linccum left the bases loaded and two of his runners scored. He was charged with six runs (five earned) on seven hits and four walks (one intentional). He struck out four while managing to record just 13 outs on a whopping 101 pitches.
The Giants needed lefty specialist Javier Lopez to bail them out in the third inning Tuesday night. This time, they went to him in the fifth.
Raise your hand if you see a problem here.
No, this is not the way it’s supposed to work. But with the rotation continuing to weigh down the club, that’s the way manager Bruce Bochy has been forced to operate.
Lopez’s tourniquet wasn’t as tight this time, as the A’s got the matchup advantage by pinch hitting a right-handed batter, Nate Freiman, who hit a two-run single to give the A’s a 6-1 lead.
But other than that, the Giants bullpen continued to pitch well under the circumstances.
For all that’s gone wrong with the Giants in recent weeks, the bullpen has been nothing short of outstanding. Despite a heavy workload, they entered with a 2.76 ERA, the second lowest in the major leagues.
Ramon Ramirez made his first appearance with the Giants since the 2011 trade that sent him to the Mets along with Andres Torres for Angel Pagan. He mostly gave his new/old team what it needed, holding the A’s to a run on a sacrifice fly in two innings.
Jean Machi struggled in the ninth and didn’t get much help from his defense while allowing two critical runs before Jeremy Affeldt stemmed the rally.
At the plate
Dan Straily had a 5.73 ERA. Jarrod Parker had a 5.76 ERA. Milone entered with a 5.19 ERA.
All three emerged as winning pitchers as the A’s have dominated this Bay Bridge series.
But no matter how badly the Giants slog through the early innings, they usually manage to get the tying run to the plate at home.
Pence and Pill hit solo home runs in the second and sixth innings, respectively, and the Giants continued to ratchet up the pressure on the A’s bullpen.
Andres Torres’ double capped the three-run rally in the sixth. Marco Scutaro hit an RBI double in the eighth as Gregor Blanco was allowed to score from first base, oddly enough, despite fan interference. Then Scutaro scored on Pablo Sandoval’s single as the Giants made it a one-run game.
But those two runs in the top of the ninth crushed thoughts of another walk-off.
At least Torres reached base in four of five plate appearances and has 12 hits in his last 25 at-bats. He’s made a strong case to continue as the leadoff hitter in Angel Pagan’s absence.
On another checkered night with the glove, Scutaro mixed in his best defensive play of the season.
He broke toward second base with the runner going in the second inning, which helped him reach Milone’s grounder up the middle. Then Scutaro flipped with his glove to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who turned the terrific double play.
But Scutaro’s error in the first inning was his ninth of the season, the most among major league second basemen.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a throwing error in the sixth and Torres made the most embarrassing gaffe in the ninth, when he let Donaldson’s base hit get past him in left field to allow a run to score.
The Giants announced 41,512 paid. It was even an off night for some of the fans, and not just the clueless dude who interfered with Scutaro’s double in the eighth.
One fan screamed “Let’s go Bochy!” as pitching coach Dave Righetti walked to the mound in the ninth.
The Giants finish their two-game homestand and their four-game Bay Bridge series with the A’s on Thursday. Barry Zito (3-3, 4.13) takes the ball against right-hander A.J. Griffin (5-3, 3.84). First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.