PHILADELPHIA This little corner of the baseball world offBroad Street has never been praised for its gentility, and Tim Lincecum knows it. There have beentaunts, wolf whistles and hurtful signs that scream, fix your teeth.
So when Tim Lincecum had his doh moment in the third inninghere, turning toward the dugout after recording only the second out, he couldhave flinched as the crowd rose up. He could have reacted like he was standingin the shadow of the playground bully.
He could have gone all wimpy.
Instead, this: I thought I could just laugh about it. Itwas a funny situation. They were kind of like all together, What the hell isthis guy doing? I was like, All right, Im a (freaking) idiot for a minute,lets go back to the mound.
Does that sound like a self-assured, assertive person? Doesit sound like someone who literally could fall down in mid-delivery for a balkthat brought in a run, as he did in the fourth inning, then bang out that embarrassment like it was a clod ofmud in his spikes?
Does it sound like the Lincecum, so comfortable in his skin,that the Giants once knew so well?
Thats what they got Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.Lincecum didnt post his most impressive linescore of 2012 but might have set aseason high for smarts, spirit and spunk in a 7-2 victory over the PhiladelphiaPhillies.
This time, he stayed out of the big inning. He didnt givein with a runner in scoring position in the fourth, issuing walks to HunterPence and Shane Victorino rather than lay one in there. He didnt fold from thestretch.
He was asked: Was that middle-in fastball to PlacidoPolanco, the one that resulted in an easy forceout for Pablo Sandoval, theturning-point pitch hes been missing?
Its not one pitch, he said. Its every pitch that leadsup to it. If not for my fastball command, guys might have been sitting on myoffspeed pitches and crushing it.
Lincecum was able to establish his fastball command early,which meant he had another route to take the next time through the lineup. ThePhillies couldnt eliminate pitches when they saw Lincecum for a second time.He had the upper hand, and the ability to make the next adjustment. And hestayed ahead of the game, as hes done so well over his career.
He got into a jam and thats the Timmy we know, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy said. We saw it last year. We saw it again tonight.
I noticed that his last start. He had a different look.Hes pitching with confidence. He didnt get flustered by anything.
All of the sudden, the Giants have won in four of Lincecumslast six starts. That sounds relatively unremarkable for a two-time Cy YoungAward winner. But consider that the Giants had dropped nine in a row beforethat.
Im not saying it means Im back, said Lincecum, throwingout some air quotes. Im just trying to get that consistency and use that as aspringboard. Its just trying to buckle down in those crunch situations andnot worry about what bad can happen to me, which is what Ive been doing.
Weve mentioned several times where the Giants would be inthe standings if they were just a .500 team in Lincecums starts. This season,he might not win back those were going to win today feelings thataccompanied most of his starts in a Giants uniform. His struggles in the firstthree months were too shocking, too pronounced and too deep. There will be some shred of doubt for the rest of this season, at least.
But if the Giants can have a Lincecum who is able to laughat himself, who can make the competition be about those 60 feet, 6 inches insteadof the smaller space between his ears, and who can leave baserunners standing like 7-10 splits after he grinds through that third out, then that really does portend goodthings. The Giants really could get on quite a handsome roll.
In short order, they could become the bullies of the NL West.