Rewind: A night of second-guessing for Lincecum, Giants

Rewind: A night of second-guessing for Lincecum, Giants
July 26, 2014, 12:15 am
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Tim Lincecum's 27-inning scoreless streak at AT&T Park came to an end in the first inning. (USATSI)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gregor Blanco is a ballplayer who has such a mastery of the spatial quirks of AT&T Park, he could play center field with the lights off after midnight. He pocketed that uncatchable fly ball to save Matt Cain’s perfect game, remember?

He is as comfortable maneuvering the outfield grass as a gymnast on the balance beam.

This is what Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers did to his sensibilities Friday night:

“Oh, man, man … oh my God,” Blanco said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

The Giants outfielders played Puig to go the other way. He tripled off a fan’s hands at the top of the left field wall. So they shifted and played him to pull. He pummeled two balls to the gap. All night, his hard contact was a crossover dribble, and the Giants were forever getting their ankles broken.

Puig became the first Dodger in 113 years to hit three triples in a game. The Dodgers had five triples overall in an 8-1 thrashing of the Giants in front of a blue-flecked sellout crowd at Third and King.

[RECAP: Lincecum rocked, Giants routed 8-1]

Puig also doubled to finish with 11 total bases – the most by a Dodger against the Giants since 2000, when Kevin Elster hit three home runs in the first ever regular-season game at AT&T Park.

Afterward, a reporter began to ask Bruce Bochy a question: “Puig had such an outstanding day, three triples and a double … what did you …”

Think of his performance. Think of his performance. Think of his performance.

Those words were on the reporter’s mind -- the ones a radio reporter once uttered to Tommy Lasorda in 1976 after Dave Kingman hit three home runs against the Dodgers, which became prologue to one of the greatest expletive-filled underground tapes in baseball history.

This time, the words were hastily rearranged into something a little less obtuse. And no, Bochy did not make live television for the ages.

“I don’t really want to …” Bochy said, grimacing. “He had a good night. I’ll say that. We made some mistakes.”

Tim Lincecum made a gob in the fifth inning, when the Dodgers racked him for five consecutive hits. But first let’s briefly revisit Puig’s triple in the first inning, because it shouldn’t have been a triple at all. He stopped at third base after his drive to left field, and umpires initiated their own review, as they do on disputed home runs. The review officials ruled that the play stood as called. The ball would not have cleared the fence without fan interference. But then … shouldn’t Puig have received an automatic double? (Especially since, as Bochy said, “It’s not like he shot out of the box, either.”)

Bochy even told the umpiring crew that he wanted to use his own challenge to place Puig at second base, which would’ve been the right call since the fan deflected the ball away from the outfielders. Bochy was rebuffed, and upset about it.

“They said in New York the play stands,” Bochy said. “There’s not much you can do. I’m standing there now and arguing with the wrong crew. I did not agree with the call at all. It’s the wrong call.”

You could argue it was all a moot point, since Puig probably would’ve scored from second base on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI single. But it didn’t seem so moot when Puig stood at the plate in the eighth, with a chance to become the first player in major league history to hit four triples in a game. (He flied out to deep center field, and his flipped bat had some impressive distance as well.)

Anyway, it’s just another example of how baseball’s replay system is a work in progress, with something new slipping through cracks that nobody thought would exist. Hopefully they get it right, and part of that is to have transparency and release the names of every specific replay crew staffing every specific game.

Moving along … Lincecum had allowed just that one run in four innings but he was no longer working with his personal catcher after Hector Sanchez, later diagnosed with a mild concussion, was struck on the mask by a foul tip in the third inning.

Now working with Buster Posey, Lincecum gave up five consecutive hits, including back-to-back triples to Dee Gordon and Puig, and the two inherited runners left for Juan Gutierrez scored when Matt Kemp hit yet another triple.

Afterward, Lincecum raised some eyebrows when he said he “kind of got away from my pitch plan a little bit” in the fifth inning and “started trying to overpower guys with my fastball. … I didn’t throw as many breaking balls and sliders as I would, and make the 89 mph fastball look faster.”

Was he not on the same page with Posey?

“No, because we went over it between innings,” Lincecum said. “That’s my fault. I should’ve shook more.”

Bochy said he didn’t think Lincecum was disrupted by his relief appearance in between starts, when he locked down his first career save in a 14-inning victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“You never know,” Bochy said. “Occasionally you have to take a pitcher out of his routine. But I liked the way he was throwing the ball until the fifth inning.”

None of it really mattered because Zack Greinke was dominant while striking out 10 in seven shutout innings, including a four-strikeout third inning in which Hunter Pence reached on a wild pitch. Greinke joined A.J. Burnett and Chuck Finley (who did it three times) as the only pitchers in major league history to record multiple four-strikeout innings.

Greinke might have had a shot at the first to get a fifth, too, but A.J. Ellis blocked the third strike in the dirt that Blanco waved through.

Had Blanco realized he was the fourth strikeout victim in that third inning?

“I was?” he said. “Really? I had no idea.”

 

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