ST. LOUIS All the usual assurances and bits of sage advicedid not apply to Tim Lincecum.
Be yourself. Stay within yourself. Just do what yourecapable of doing.
But what happens when your best effort no longer fills thecoal car? What happens when you must pitch to a standard you can no longerbear? What happens when Tim Lincecum can no longer be Tim Lincecum?
Well, maybe what happens is a silent clubhouse, a hollowstomach and a stare straight off into the distance after the Giants lost 8-3 tothe St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night to fall behind three games to one in theNLCS.
Standards and pennants. The Giants must reach ever higher tograsp them now.
RATTO: Giants a little bit short of everything
Its extremely disappointing, said Lincecum, after pullinga knit cap down to his eyes. Because you feel within yourself that you canpick the team up in a situation like this. But when you dont go and do it, itmakes it that much further of a fall, I guess.
A terrible, terrifying fall.
The last time Lincecum started a postseasongame before Thursday, his teammates literally lifted him on their shoulders as they smudged agleaming World Series trophy with their fingers. He was and remains the only San Francisco Giants pitcher in the franchise's five-plus decades to own a victory in a World Series clincher.
Those Giants pitched their way through three postseason series,scoring just enough and using pluck and rowdy luck (and beards and thongs andeven a masked mystery man known as The Machine) to stand alone at the end.
They do not hold title to that kind of pitching now. MadisonBumgarner began running low on diesel a month ago, and the Lincecum thatdiscovered himself in September, 2010, never did resurface this season.
His miserable August that year was contained to one month.This year, it spread like a rash, and it never really went away.
Even the good starts in the second half only led toheightened expectations that, for reasons that he will dissect in the weeks andmonths to come, could not be met.
Thats obviously been the hardest part because Ive shownflashes of what I can do or what I think I should be doing, he said. Sothats the frustrating part.
When you come down to it, its not about what Ive done. Youknow, Ive got to figure out a way to do it differently now and get my outs. SoI think thats the frustrating part because Ive always been able to transitionon the run and not necessarily worry about that. So for me not to make thatadjustment, I guess, on the run its hard.
Lincecum will have to find a new identity as the raindropstrack down the windows of his Seattle condo. He might try a new grip on hischangeup, which was once the most lethal pitch in baseball. Maybe a differentworkout regimen can help him gain some of his lost velocity.
Maybe hell return to those three double-cheeseburgerlunches, followed by an afternoon nap, and pitch a little closer to his weightin 2011.
You might call it soul searching. But Lincecum has to findsomething much more practical than that. Hes under contract next season for22 million. Then comes free agency, and uncertainty.
I think that will be something Ill do in the offseason onmy own, he said. I cant really say right now what Ill do differently. Rightnow Im obviously upset at myself for the game today. But tomorrows a newday.
As for his day at Busch Stadium, it was more of what theGiants have seen from Lincecum all season. He struggled to put the ball wherehe wanted, he struggled to repeat his delivery and he struggled to put awayhitters in key spots.
In the first inning, his direction to the mound was allwrong as the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead within the first four batters. Pitchingcoach Dave Righetti made the first of his three mound visits.
He was cutting himself off there a little bit, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy said. Hes done a great job for us. He gave us all he hadout there.
The Giants had to turn to Lincecum in this game. They had to go with hope. They couldn't feed Bumgarner and Zito to the Cardinals, who chew up left-handed pitchers.
And Lincecum, for all his laboring, almost gave them enough to exit a one-run game. Bochy saidhe wouldnt have asked Lincecum, who was pitching on three days of restfollowing his two-inning relief appearance in Game 1, to go further than thefifth.
But Matt Carpenter doubled off the center field wall and the Giants couldnt takeadvantage of center fielder Angel Pagans tremendous cutoff of Matt Hollidayssingle in right-center. Shortstop Brandon Crawford skipped his throw to theplate, and although Carpenter wasnt yet bearing down, catcher Hector Sanchezcouldnt handle the hop.
Carpenter scored to make it 3-1, and then Lincecum couldnt putaway Yadier Molina with two outs. A couple of two-strike fouls preceded asingle up the middle that scored another run, and ended the right-handersnight.
And, maybe, the most challenging season of his life.
You know, I think it just shows hes human, left-handerJeremy Affeldt said. For several years there, the kid I mean, Ive neverseen anything like it. He still has the stuff. Its just tonight, it wasnt hisnight.
Everybody needs to remember hes a human being. What Istill see is a talented pitcher whos done a lot of great things in his career,and he shouldnt be ashamed of what hes done at all. We all felt we had asmuch of a chance with him today as any.
Theres no regrets. He went out and gave it his all, and wesee that.
He gave what he could, and what he had.
Im always excited to go out there every chance I get,Lincecum said. Thats what were here for. We want to pitch and compete andthats great.
But I didnt do my job.