All signs point to Lincecum not starting in NLDS


All signs point to Lincecum not starting in NLDS

Two years ago, Bruce Bochy ignored Barry Zito's contract, studied his games, and made him the fifth wheel in the Giants' four-man playoff rotation, to much consternation and wagging of tongues. This time, Bochy seems to have doubled down and done the same to Tim Lincecum, despite the same contractual and historical perceptions, and for the same reason. Results.

Bochy announced Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Game 3 Tuesday, and barring a complete change of heart regarding Barry Zito or a need to bring back Matt Cain on short rest in Game 4, the decision on Lincecum is as close to official as not actually saying it can be.

In short, Bochy has done everything but shout it out.

In addition, Lincecum worked with the relievers earlier today, which is another dot that can only be connected one way. Thus, Lincecum's elevated place in the pitching hierarchy apparently has been rendered less important than his substandard resume this year.

The decision can be considered surprising to some because:

(a) Lincecum is Lincecum and has the Cy Young bookends to prove it;

(b) Vogelsong seemed the likeliest candidate for bullpen work, especially in Cincinnati had either Zito or Lincecum struggled in the absurdly friendly confines of Great American Ball Park;

(c) How many Cy Young winners and franchise faces get reduced to scut work so soon after the acme of their careers?

But there is one reason why it makes perfect sense, even with all the payroll, political and long-term implications that might be implied, namely this:

Bruce Bochy manages the ball team, not the payroll. He did it with Zito and Pablo Sandoval two years ago (although Sandoval wasn't so much a payroll consideration), and even though Lincecum has more on his Baseball Reference page than most people his age, nothing about his 2012 suggested anything but a cul de sac in his career.

Lincecum presumably will become the principal long man if such a creature is needed, but it is likelier still that there will be no opportunities for Bochy to use him in this series unless something has gone dramatically wrong for the Giants. Bochy's decision delay in announcing the rotation probably comes in part to protect Lincecum from the media grilling, but the decision to go with Vogelsong had been made awhile ago, perhaps as much as two weeks. Bochy kept his options open, but Lincecum's last few outings dipped while Vogelsong's rose, and Zito had long ago established his CV as a member of the rotation.

The announcement is binding only for Cincinnati, of course, and Bochy can revisit the issue for any subsequent series. But for the moment, Bochy showed that he is not only large and in charge as he was in 2010, but that he is far bolder with his lineups than any of his critics are willing to admit. Indeed, Lincecum got significant applause from the crowd before the game because he still has throw-weight in the stands.

But he does not have quite so much with the manager when the results run at such odds with the history. Whether the Lincecum move works, doesn't, or has no effect at all remains to be seen, but it is the move that seemed one step beyond until Bochy did what he did two years ago.

Go on record rather than rep.

Ray Ratto is a columnist at

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory


SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him.