ST. LOUIS Itll be up to Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito tobring the NLCS back to AT&T Park.
Following the Giants rain-delayed 3-1 loss to the St. LouisCardinals in Game 3 Wednesday night, manager Bruce Bochy made it official: Lincecum would takethe mound Thursday in Game 4 against Adam Wainwright the two-time Cy YoungAward winners first postseason start since he won the World Series clincher atTexas two years ago.
And Zito, a little further removed from his 2002 AL Cy Young season, is the choice over Madison Bumgarner to pitch inGame 5. He's likely to oppose Lance Lynn.
Bochy said he delayed the announcement in case he neededLincecum to pitch in relief in case the weather or extra innings necessitatedit Wednesday night.
Hes the guy we want out there and hes been throwing theball well, Bochy said. Weve got to bounce back, and its great to have a guylike Timmy all set to go for us.
The Lincecum decision was expected. The Giants werent goingto start both their left-handers, Zito and Bumgarner, against a club thatposted the best average in the NL against southpaws.
But the decision to dump Bumgarner from the rotation was amild surprise, if only because Bochy said in the interview room a day earlierthat he wasnt as concerned about the 23-year-olds struggles as everyone mightbe led to believe.
Ultimately, Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti decidedBumgarner was worn down.
We feel its time to give Madison a little break, saidBochy, adding that Bumgarner would be available in the bullpen. Hes a youngkid, 23. Hes been pitching a lot of innings and we feel at this point werebetter off giving him a break and going with Z, whos done a nice job for us.
Bumgarner insisted he wasnt injured.
If I was, Id lie to you, he said. But Im really not.
Bumgarner is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts.He ended the regular season with a 5.89 ERA in his last seven outings, anddidnt complete seven innings once. He has thrown 216 13 innings, counting theplayoffs, after throwing 204 23 last year and working all the way to his WorldSeries victory on Oct. 31 the year before that
Its whats best for the team right now, Bumgarner said. Im not throwingthe ball well at all right now. Theyve got to do whats best to give us achance to win.
The Giants have won the last 12 times Zito has taken themound, although the left-hander didnt make it out of the third inning and wasplagued by walks in his Game 4 start at Cincinnati. That night, Lincecumswooped in and saved the Giants with 4 13 solid, strike-filled relief innings.
Lincecum is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three postseason reliefappearances spanning 8 13 innings. Hes allowed just three hits, walked oneand struck out nine. It was a huge improvement from a miserable regular seasonin which he needed a second-half rally just to shave down his ERA to 5.18.
Id say his stuffs had more life on it, said catcherBuster Posey, who very possibly might be at first base for Game 4. Hes beenlocating better. Everything, really, has been better. We have a lot ofconfidence when hes on the mound.
Said Matt Cain, the hard-luck loser in Game 3: We feel wevegot a great chance with Timmy.
Bochy said he hasnt decided on a catcher for either of thenext two games. But Brandon Belts two ground outs to second base and hiscalled strikeout will inspire thoughts of putting Hector Sanchez Lincecum andZitos more frequent batterymate behind the plate and moving Posey to firstbase.
Posey, asked if he expected to start at catcher in Game 4, said: "Yes, that's what I expect. I don't know if that's the case."
Bochy will consider other lineup changes, perhaps movingdown Hunter Pence in the order.
The Giants trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. They need towin at least one of two at Busch Stadium, or else there will be no morebaseball at Third and King this year.
We are in their house, center fielder Angel Pagan said. Youdont want to be behind. But we have been in this position before.