PHOENIX – You’d think the wild, walk-filled starts would be the most frustrating for Tim Lincecum: the ones when his delivery is a tangle of coat hangers, the pitches scatter all over the plot and his defenders shift awkwardly from one foot to the other.
You’d think those would be the ones that cause him the most consternation as he replays each batter in his mind, the ones he’ll brood over for days.
You’d be wrong.
“I’m more upset with the games when I don’t execute when I’m ahead,” said Lincecum, after the Giants’ 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night. “I keep leaving pitches over the plate when I’m the one with the advantage. So yeah, it’s way more frustrating when you’re ahead.”
[Instant replay: Lincecum struggles, Giants fall to D'backs 4-1]
Say no more, Timmy. The Giants feel you, brother.
A club that held a 9 ½-game lead in the NL West just 12 days ago now can feel hot breath. Secretariat got a stone in his shoe. Somebody drank Jobu’s rum. The division is a fight again, the Giants’ losing streak hit six games and they have one victory out of their last 10.
Yep. It’s way more frustrating when you’re ahead.
The Giants held one clubhouse meeting prior to the game. And while Bruce Bochy doesn’t call for many assemblies, he gathered the group afterwards.
“Just touching base with them,” Bochy said. “That’s all."
The message: don’t let this happen to you. Stay positive and don’t get frustrated.
But if you want to get a little bit pissed off, hey. Might not be a bad idea.
“It’s time to push harder, and not in a negative way,” said Lincecum, who matched a career low by striking out just one batter in his six innings. “If a guy is scuffling, give him positive feedback. We’re in a position where things are happening to us and we’re not fighting back like we were in the first 60 games.”
Just like Lincecum couldn’t bury his two-strike breaking pitches, the Giants are not burying teams. It’s one thing to show spirit by rallying from deficits. It’s another kind of spirit to take an early lead and then keep adding to it, the way a wrestler tightens a sleeper hold. That’s something they failed to do at home last weekend against an injury-ravaged Rockies club, and it cost them in the late innings. They face another downtrodden NL West club this weekend, but despite driving up Josh Collmenter’s pitch count, they couldn’t square up anything that didn’t nestle in an outfielder’s glove.
Their five hits represented their most meager output over this 10-game tumble down the massif.
At least the Dodgers gave up three runs in the ninth to blow a victory at San Diego, allowing the Giants to remain four games up.
“We’re still in the driver’s seat,” said Lincecum, “and we need to get in that mindset, need to see it that way.”
It’s funny how managers push buttons. You could argue that Arizona’s Kirk Gibson preached the same “fight back” sermon after his club was a horrendous 9-22 through April. How else do you explain a manager fist-bumping a rookie when he drills Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun after a warning?
Bochy would never do something like that. But he is on record as a big believer in the power of swagger.
“Shoot, the mood has been good despite these last 10 games,” said Bochy, after several of Arizona’s extra-base hits fell just out of reach in the outfield. “But I like to look at the 60-plus games before that when we played good baseball and say, `This is who we are.’”
The Giants hope to have everyone at their disposal soon. Angel Pagan wasn’t available off the bench and still felt some tightness in his back when he took left-handed batting practice, but there’s a chance he’ll return to the lineup Saturday.
Brandon Belt said he expects his minor league rehab assignment won’t last longer than a week, and he’s perhaps within a week of beginning it after his first on-field batting practice session went well Friday.
“That first BP was impressive,” Bochy said. “I hate to even say a date, but a week to 10 days (to report to Triple-A Fresno), yeah … and this thing could get ramped up.”
That’s the ideal trajectory for everyone. The clubhouse cheered as a recessional hymn to Bochy’s meeting, which is a good sign. Now they just need a result worthy of applause.