Giants

Tim Lincecum is a graphic novel

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Tim Lincecum is a graphic novel

BOX SCORE

Tim Lincecum is a graphic novel, and given the events of Games 2 and 4 of this National league Division Series, the story is much fuller and plot-driven now.

Never mind that he had a lousy year lots of very good players do that at least once. Never mind that Giant fans and media chased miscellaneous tails for nearly a month trying to figure out what his role, if any, might be in the postseason.

His role is much worse than one could have imagined he is the idealized version of Guillermo Mota. And his results are galactically better.

People didnt notice all that much in Game 2, as his two innings tended to blur amid the smoking wreckage of the Giants 9-0 loss to Cincinnati. But Wednesday, his 4 13 innings in San Franciscos 8-3 Game 4 victory were exemplary, saving Barry Zito a humiliating potential defeat, eating up half the game and stomping on the Redlegs from the worrisome fourth to the anticlimactic ninth.

He allowed two hits and one run, none to either of Cincinnatis three best hitters, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips. He struck out six, more than he had in 15 of his 33 regular season starts. He threw 55 pitches, 42 for strikes, a percentage of 76 percent (he was barely at 61 percent for the regular season).

He was, in short and in sum, the Lincecum he has been far too seldom for Giant tastes this year. And on a day that was San Franciscos from Angel Pagans home run two pitches into the day to Santiago Casllas uneventful ninth, Lincecum was the tale to be told.

Now before you get too far ahead of yourselves, this is not his place in the Giants future hierarchy. Long men dont get 20 million a year, and that isnt how Lincecums career ends unless the graphic novel has a very bad ending and is drawn by Frank Miller.

Not only that, the likelihood that he can make an appearance in Game 5 is unlikely, as he is not really built for that kind of workload. Oh, he could be a proud member of Johnny All-Staff if need be, but that would be only in an emergency, and a dire one at that.

Thus, the story only rises to a new plot point if the Giants win Game 5 Thursday behind Matt Cain, and San Francisco faces either St. Louis or Washington in the National League Championship Series. Heroes typically are not made in the game before the last one.

But redemption is always a nice hook, and between the two quiet innings he threw Sunday and the four dominant ones he threw Wednesday, Lincecum is the fresh beneficiary of fans notoriously short memory spans. Not just Giants fans, but fans in general. Two days ago, Coco Crisp was an iron-handed failure, and Tuesday he saved the Athletics considerable bacon.

Thats how the postseason plays not momentum-based, but event-based. Wednesday, Tim Lincecum reminded his constituents that he still has some events left in him. But it is still a strictly off-Broadway kind of stardom. Tim Lincecum didnt master the art of being Guillermo Mota. He just showed that he will not go quietly, and his graphic novel will not end with the thud of an oatmeal balloon.

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him.