Lincecum: 'The equalizer today was throwing my off-speed for strikes'
Tim Lincecum gave the Giants seven innings and allowed just one run in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Toronto. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – With everyone so willing to pat Tim Lincecum on the back Tuesday night, Lincecum was wary of heaping too much praise on himself.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy talked up his aggressiveness, his command and his good rhythm. Left fielder Andres Torres said it’s easy playing defense when the right-hander is pumping strikes the way he did in a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
But Lincecum knows this drill well.
He drew satisfaction from his seven innings of three-hit ball before a delighted sellout crowd at AT&T Park. He also knows the value of tempered enthusiasm.
He’ll be happy when he can bottle what he did Tuesday and repeat it outing after outing.
“I’ve said it before, I’m not jumping up and down right now,” Lincecum said. “The thing I’ve been looking for most this year is consistency. Not just one outing at a time. It’s multiple – taking positives from every outing and just working forward.
“I haven’t been able to do that this year, so hopefully this is a stepping stone.”
His performance snatched the spotlight away from Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was making his first appearance at AT&T Park since serving a 50-game suspension last season that ended his electrifying year with the Giants.
Lincecum allowed his only run on Edwin Encarnacion’s mammoth homer to dead center in the first inning. After that, he retired 18 of the final 20 hitters he faced, notching just the fifth quality start by a Giant pitcher in the past 20 games.
When he’s dialed in like Tuesday, it’s hard to imagine any talk of him potentially shifting to the bullpen.
Now comes the hard part. Can he string together several strong outings?
He is just 4-5 this season with a 4.75 ERA.
He’s only made what can be considered strong back-to-back starts on one occasion. He threw 6 2/3 shutout innings against San Diego on April 20, then followed it up with seven innings of two-run ball against that same Padres team which is currently six games under .500.
Bochy – stop us if you’ve heard this before – thinks Lincecum should take plenty of confidence from Tuesday’s outing moving forward.
“He’s been hard to figure out because he’s had great stuff,” Bochy said. “The big inning has hurt him. He stayed out of that and made pitches when he had to. This is something he could build off of.”
Do the Giants ever need it.
Their 4.82 rotation ERA ranks 13th out of 15 N.L. teams. After this brief two-game home series, they head back out on their road (where they’re 10-17) for a nine-game trip against Arizona, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, who are a combined 33 games over .500.
They need their starting pitchers to regain their old form, and Lincecum is a huge part of making that happen.
Not that he was the only bright spot for the Giants on Tuesday.
Torres, seeing consistent playing time in the outfield with Angel Pagan’s injury, clubbed a two-run homer to provide all of San Francisco’s offense.
Cabrera, booed lustily by the 41,981 in attendance, had two of Toronto’s five hits. But in the top of the ninth, with the tying run on first and Cabrera at the plate, Giants closer Sergio Romo coaxed him into a harmless fly ball to right field. Then Romo nailed down the final two outs for his 16th save.
But the warmest ovation came when Lincecum walked off the mound following a 1-2-3 seventh inning, which concluded his night.
There’s nothing Giants fans enjoy more than showering their two-time Cy Young winner with love.
Lincecum just needs to prove worthy of that start after start.