Lincecum refuses to be the wimpy kid against Phillies

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Lincecum refuses to be the wimpy kid against Phillies

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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.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

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SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.