SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum reached a benchmark Tuesdaynight, and not just for himself while shutting out the Colorado Rockies in a6-3 victory.
Lincecum won his 10th game, becoming the fifthand final member of the Giants rotation to record double-digit victories.
The last time the Giants had five 10-game winners on staffwas in 2002, when they came within six outs of a World Series championship.
But the Giants didnt get within a breath of the trophya decade ago because Livan Hernandez, Kirk Rueter, Jason Schmidt, Russ Ortiz and Ryan Jensendominated in the postseason. They rode a humming offense, so loud it was barely street legal, with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent firing like pistons.
It was a series dominated by big hits, big rallies, biggerhits and bigger rallies.
It was not the way most World Series are won.
No, the blueprint was, is and continues to be startingpitching, followed by airtight relief. Its about getting the matchups in the lateinnings. And its deep, dominant outings from the rotation that allows thosematchups to happen.
So the Giants understand that they need more than aserviceable Tim Lincecum if they want to be practical about shedding a postseason opponent or three.They might just need the pitcher who struck out 14 and threw a one-hitter inGame 1 of the 2010 NLDS vs. Atlanta.
They might not have that Lincecum again. But Tuesday night,they saw something that could work.
Lincecum went with the sinker-slider format and the Rockiesplayed into it during his 6 13 scoreless innings. He retired 11 consecutive atone stretch, with only one of those outs in the air.
What does that tell him?
Stuffs moving down, Lincecum said. Slider, sinker iswhat I went to today. Those are pitches Ive gotta work in to avoid those bighits and home runs. Some of them turn into strikeouts and some turn into greatplays by the infield.
The sum of them turn into a standing ovation, which is whatLincecum received as he walked off the mound. Jeremy Affeldt got thedouble-play grounder that ensured Lincecums ERA would fall (down to 4.91,below 5.00 for the first time this season, which induced a whoop-de-do armraise from Lincecum when informed of that afterwards).
It was Lincecums first home victory since July 31.
It just felt good being home, he said. Obviously, thispark helps, and having that crowd behind you, it gets you in your element. Itdefinitely helps you rise to the occasion in the big innings.
Its getting darker earlier and theres a familiar chill inthe air at China Basin. Postseason baseball is coming, to borrow a phrase fromNed Stark, and for all his problems with midterms, Lincecum always has aced thefinal.
The Giants will begin to order their postseason rotationsoon, and dont be surprised if Lincecum draws the No. 3 slot behind Matt Cainand Madison Bumgarner. The Giants are likely to open as the No. 3 seed againstCincinnati or Washington and play the first two at home before going on theroad. Its worth pointing out that Lincecum has won his last five road starts.
And if he can stay with his sinkerslider approach, perhapshe wont need the ample dimensions of AT&T Park to keep the ball from reachingthe seats.
That discussion aside, home and road matter less thanLincecum simply finding himself on the mound again. He isnt all the way backyet.
To get to that point where everything feels like it works byitself I havent gotten to that point yet, he said.
And yet he is so far from where he stood at the All-Starbreak.
Just focusing on that second half has alleviated thatpressure to do what I needed to be doing or what everybody thought I needed tobe doing, he said. Its about making good pitches and getting outs. Really,thats all theyre asking me to do. Thats all I need to do.
A final thought, Bruce Bochy?
You know, Timmys tough when hes on his game. And hes onit now, the manager said. Its good for all of us, believe me, to see himpitch like this.