Lincecum on shutting out LA: 'Enough was enough'

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Lincecum on shutting out LA: 'Enough was enough'

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SAN FRANCISCO It could have wrecked some teams, to go twomonths without a victory from their opening-day starter.

Tim Lincecums self-doubt could have leeched into the brainsof his teammates. It could have cast a shadow over AT&T Park. It could havesent the Giants reeling.

Instead, on the day Lincecum finally broke his unfathomable 10-startwinless streak, wouldnt you know it? The Giants resurfaced as a first-placeteam.

After trailing the Dodgers by as many as 7 games thisseason it was five games just 10 days ago the Giants now stand in a tiewith their archrivals atop the NL West. Its a new season on June 27 and a newstart, and nobody needed a clean slate more than Lincecum.

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He used the eraser to rub out the Dodgers in a 3-0 victoryon Wednesday, and you know all the history by now. The Giants didnt allow arun while sweeping the three-game series. Thats the first time theyveaccomplished that feat against any team since 1954, when Marv Grissom, SalMaglie and Johnny Antonelli shut out the Philadelphia Phillies at the PoloGrounds.

The Giants have never done it to their archrivals in more than a century of butting heads.

The significance is obvious. The effect on the standings, and the psyches, is obvious, too.

But heres the most encouragingpart for anyone hoisting an orange-handled broom Wednesday afternoon: Barry Zito and Lincecumwere two of the three starting pitchers. Fold them into the steady, superlativecontributions the Giants have received all season from the likes of Matt Cain,Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner, and this is a team that could catchflight.

(Or at least send them past the Dodgers, whose equipmenttruck no joke broke down on 101 on the way to SFO.)

Lincecum, you've no doubt noticed, had become the ace of this staff in name only. Butsometime after the first inning last Friday in Oakland, he reminded himself whohe was. And his seven-word motivational speech could be summarized this way: ImTim (freaking) Lincecum, and youre not!

I was focusing my pissed-offedness, you could say, in theright direction, said Lincecum, after holding the Dodgers to four hits and twowalks while striking out eight. Im not sure madness is the right word, orfrustration. Its like, Ive got nothing left to lose here, even if thatsnot necessarily the case. But for me, that was enough.

Enough was enough and it was time to turn it around.

You could almost read those thoughts on Lincecums faceafter he blocked the plate in the third inning, thrusting his 165-pound frame infront of the plate after throwing a pitch that bounced past catcher HectorSanchez. Lincecum was giving up almost 80 pounds to Dodgers pitcher ChadBillingsley, who tried to score from third base. Lincecum didnt show a glimmerof fear or hesitation.

I mean, I didnt want them to get a run, Lincecum said.Im not much to go through, but he was going to have to go through me to getto the plate.

Billingsley slid into Lincecums left leg and toppled himover. Little Timmy held onto the ball, even though his glove got knocked off.He held it aloft for umpire Fieldin Culbreth, and a shock of celebration wentthrough him when he realized the call went his way.

How does that Japanese proverb go? Fall down seven times,get up eight?

Lincecum has spent his share of time knocked down in thedust, literally and figuratively. Remember that shot he took at the plate fromOaklands Colin Cowgill a month ago?

This time, he kept his nose in there. And he won the fight.

That was definitely for me Ive been talking about thingsnot going my way or whatnot, Lincecum said. It was nice to see it go theother way. And it wasnt necessarily my way. It was the teams way. Just to seethe reaction from the crowd, to see the reaction from your teammates when thosethings happen, it lifts the whole team, not just myself.

It lifted the Giants to see their ace pitching like himselfagain. Right-hander Sergio Romo called it gratifying. Shortstop BrandonCrawford described it as normal Timmy.

Lincecum threw 59 percent offspeed on his 115 pitches andthe curve was a major weapon. He threw strikes on 10 of 14 curveballs. Hischange-up had its familiar fade and bite, too. He threw 27 of them, 19 forstrikes. He got six whiffs on the changeup, six more on the slider. And for themost part, was able to get ahead with his fastball to put himself in a positionto use his offspeed stuff.

Hes had the stuff, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Ithink he realized how good he is and he took that into todays game.

Another factor: Lincecum paced himself. He took more timebetween pitches, trying to make sure things never felt like they were spinningout of control.

He never threw more than 21 pitches in any inning, sostamina wasnt an issue, either. His highest pitch count came in the seventh,after a single and a one-out walk.

In the hours before the game, Bochy was asked about closerSantiago Casilla and he described what he wants to see and hear from hispitcher when he visits the mound to check on him.

Bochy went to check onLincecum in the seventh. He liked what he saw and heard.

He was adamant. He was good, Bochy said. I want him toknow I have confidence in him. I liked the way he was throwing. Yeah, I had acouple guys ready there. But he was honest, and I thought that was huge forhim, to get in that situation late in the ballgame and get out of it.

Thats the Timmy we know, fighting through it, and he did.

Said Lincecum: The second I saw him trotting out to meinstead of the walk it gave me the inclination Im going to probably be inthis game if I give him the right answer. And, you know, I stillhad plenty of energy out there and I still felt like I had my stuff. So I wasgoing to grind it out no matter what.

What was the right answer that Lincecum gave his manager?

Well Lincecum said. He was asking me, You got this? AndI said, Yeah. He said, What? And I said, Yes sir!

Lincecum got Tony Gwynn Jr. to fly out. Then he went changeup,fastball, fastball, slider, curve showing confidence in four pitches to strikeout old friend and World Series teammate Juan Uribe.

And as the standing ovation attested, it was a HappyLincecum Day once more.

Its something Im used to hearing every once in awhile,Lincecum said. So to get that feeling back with the team and the fans, itsknowing theyve still got my back and theyre pushing forward and they want meto do the same thing. So thats what Im trying to do.

Were tied with the Dodgers for first place, so to be inthe position were in says a lot about us.

Its a new season, and for that, Lincecum is grateful.

I feel like Ive had a good support system here with myteammates picking me up between starts and even talking to me between games andstuff just to get me back to where I need to be, he said. Sometimes itstough to feel vulnerable enough to ask for help because things have just, Iwouldnt say theyve been easy for me, but theyve gone my way for the most part.

So theyve been great about helping build my confidence upand letting me know, Youre better than this. You can get out of this. Youvedone it before. So why not do it again?

Lincecum thought back to that wild pitch, and that play at the plate with Billingsley.

"Sanchez made a great play on a (crappy) pitch," he said. "So its funnyhow the ugly thing worked out to a pretty cool thing."

Kind of like ending a 10-start winless streak by pitching your team into first place.

Giants notes: Bumgarner to take next step in rehab; no skipping Moore

Giants notes: Bumgarner to take next step in rehab; no skipping Moore

SAN FRANCISCO — It wasn’t until a few days ago that Madison Bumgarner was cleared to swing a bat, but he certainly hasn’t appeared to miss a beat. In his second round of BP back at AT&T Park, Bumgarner started peppering the park with line drives. 

It was a pleasing sight for players and coaches who watched, and the next step will give them a bit more to be excited about. After throwing a bullpen session Tuesday, Bumgarner will take the next step in his rehab. He’ll start for the Sacramento River Cats on Friday, kicking off what could be a tour of the organization’s California affiliates. 

Bumgarner will throw every five days as he normally would, but the Giants aren’t sure it’s necessary to send him to Albuquerque for his second start. Manager Bruce Bochy said nothing is final, but Bumgarner’s next start could come July 5 in San Jose, where he hasn’t started since five dominant appearances in 2009. His next start after that could also be in San Jose, since Triple-A has an All-Star break when he’s scheduled to go July 10. 

After that? Well, how ‘bout the big leagues? 

Team officials haven’t shut the door on Bumgarner returning as early as July 15 in San Diego. That would be the second game out of the All-Star break, and would have Bumgarner back about two weeks earlier than first expected. The Giants do not want to rush him, but they’re proud of the way he has attacked the rehab process, and at some point they won’t hold him back if he's deemed 100 percent. 

First things first, Bumgarner needs to get through Friday’s start. The early returns have been positive. He threw three innings in an Arizona Rookie League game Sunday and was so dominant that he had to go down to the bullpen to get his pitch count up. Bumgarner threw 16 fastballs, 14 for strikes. Javier Lopez was on hand keeping an eye on Bumgarner and said the ball was coming out of his hand as it always has. 

--- The Giants have a couple of off days coming up, but Bochy said he is not considering skipping Matt Moore, who has a 6.04 ERA. 

“Right now, we’re better off pitching him,” Bochy said. “He was so good in Atlanta. It’s really important to keep him going. There’s no health issue. I think he needs to keep pitching. I think he's really close, I do. Some of these starts, he’s probably trying to establish his fastball too much and he didn’t have great command of it.”

--- Austin Slater (hip flexor) is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. He didn't play Monday, but he was cleared to pinch-hit if needed. 

--- Cody Hall, a former Giant, is back with the organization. The Giants traded Hall to the Diamondbacks last January and he was briefly a Marlin later in the year. Hall was playing independent league ball when the Giants signed him to a minor league deal. He’ll likely head to Double-A as depth. There have been some injuries and promotions at the higher levels of the organization. 

--- Steven Duggar was in camp for the first time and he might have been an outfield replacement had he stayed healthy. After dealing with a flexor strain and hamstring tightness, he returned to rehab games last night. He should be in San Jose soon, and then it’ll be back to Sacramento at some point. Duggar is the center fielder closest to the majors, so it would be nice to get a look at him in September. 

--- There was something new Monday night, and it wasn't just the victory. Sam Dyson pitched the eighth, striking out Nolan Arenado, Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond around a single. Bochy said after the game that Dyson is his main eighth-inning guy right now. That's quite the ride for a guy who was DFA'd not long ago, and it's another feather in Dave Righetti's cap. Remember, the Giants basically got Dyson for free. 

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”