Ray Ratto

Ratto: Lincecum's Incandescent, Invincible Game 1


Ratto: Lincecum's Incandescent, Invincible Game 1


SAN FRANCISCO -- Because the future must be served first, this, from San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy:

Tim Lincecum is still available on short rest for Game 4 of the NL Divisional Series if needed.

"Yeah, it was 119 (pitches,)" he said as he recapped the Giants 1-0 win over Atlanta in Game 1, "but it wasnt like he looked overextended out there. I dont think this changes my mind about that (scenario) at all."

And now, the past. The amazing, overwhelming past.

"Truthfully, I cant remember him ever being better," Bochy said. "I mean, I dont remember one that stands out right now."

That's because there really isnt one. Lincecum came as close as a human being can come to being Roy Halladay without actually being traded to Philadelphia and changing ones name. He dope-slapped the Braves in Halladay-esque fashion, limiting them to two harmless doubles and 14 even more harmless strikeouts, and in doing so eradicated all useful memories of the August From Hell.

"Guys kept telling me everyone goes through this, and everyones gonna have their struggles," Lincecum said of the lost 30 days and whether they seem like they even happened to him. "But I dont even think about that or going through those mental struggles."

He didnt have to, either. He beat the Braves early with breaking balls, and then conditioned them so well that he beat them with almost a constant diet of fastballs late. And while the Braves are a very modest hitting team by postseason standards, this would have been an overwhelming performance under any circumstances.

"I think maybe I went out to talk to him two or three times, maybe," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Just, I didnt really need to. I just went out to see if we were on the same . . . the same page."

Put it this way, re: pages. Lincecum was the author. Posey was a fine editor.

Indeed, the only time Lincecum caused the Giants even a moments worry was the opening batter, third baseman Omar Infante. He coaxed a 3-1 count from Lincecum and then drove a ball into the left-center field gap for a double, but died when Jason Heyward flied modestly to Cody Ross in left and Lincecum struck out Derrek Lee and Brian McCann, the first on a 3-2 slider, the second on a 3-2 change.

He went to three balls only three more, walking Heyward in the fourth (the only inning he didnt have at least one strikeout), striking out Lee in the seventh and Heyward in the ninth.

The only other moment of suspense when the Giants were taking the field came in the ninth when Brian Wilson, who had thrown in the eighth just as a precaution, dawdled purposefully on his way to the bullpen in the ninth. He knew, as professionals do, that he needed to be ready just in case, but that this was deservedly Lincecums game, and to hurry along would be, well, impolite if nothing else.

As it turned out, Wilson didnt have to heat up much, as Lincecum closed in style, with a hard grounder from Infante to Juan Uribe at short, then the Heyward strikeout and Lee looking at strike 75.

And Posey was the perfect supporting actor, by singling, being thrown out at second while being called safe on a stolen base attempt ("Its a good thing we dont have instant replay," he joked), and then scoring on a hard smash past third that Infante deflected by Ross.

"I cant imagine what (being Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz felt like), he said when asked to reference Halladays catcher. "That was fun. When you throw a complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts, its going to get pretty loud, I guess."

It did. And it didnt matter. Lincecum at his best turned in the best performance of his career and the second-best performance of an overwhelmingly pitcher driven postseason.

The six winning pitchers so far (Halladay, Lincecum, Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte) have combined for the following pitching line:

44.1 19 7 6 8 48

Thats 44 13 innings, 19 hits, seven runs, six earned, eight walks and 48 strikeouts. Thats dead-ball era stuff, across the board.

There will be incorrect quibbles about why Pablo Sandoval was walked to pitch to Ross, or why Sandoval was allowed to bat for himself against Jonny Venters in the sixth, or even why Wilson didnt finish. Those are exceedingly silly nits to pick, though, because this was Lincecums evening, with a hint of Posey and a soupcon of Ross. No managerial decision was going to change this story line, no matter how desperately the second-guess brigade tried. Lincecum was the story Thursday, period.

And Monday, too, if it comes to that. He looks very available for Game 4 indeed. Available as all hell.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together


National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

So after one day, the NSOBL (the National Son-Of-A-Bitch League, as if you couldn’t guess) has survived the contemptible brain-burps of the Panderer-In-Chief. Now we’ll see if the players’ fury has true staying power.
And by staying power, we don’t mean whether they will continue to defy the call of the National Anthem (an easy enough task), but whether they view their newfound solidarity as something that needs to be nurtured to truly endure.
After all, it’s easy to be galvanized by the noisy neighbor who spends his day on the porch shouting irrational obscenities at the neighbors. But Donald Trump isn’t the issue; he never was. All he did was put a face to the idiocies that prevent us from being the country we should be.
But this started a year ago with a single knee, a single person, and a broader cause than a President who needs to pick fights the way a vampire needs naked necks. Colin Kaepernick, whose career as a football player is essentially over because he caused the NFL a headache by honoring his conscience, took his knee to protest police excesses, and didn’t need to be called a son of a bitch to do so. He was later, of course, part of the medley of all the other insults that followed, but he didn’t kneel because he was insulted. He knelt because other were, and worse.
But the beauty of these days is that we take any idea or action and immediately change its meaning to fit our own prejudices. Kaepernick’s message was too nuanced for a lot of people’s facilities because they value symbols more than people, but nobody doesn’t understand being called a son of a bitch by a boss you hate.
So the new NSOBL is just starting to coalesce. There will not be a shortage of reasons for players to find their voice and conscience, and to break the bonds that required them to ask permission before speaking or thinking. If they are as they purport to be, they will remember that change happens with a single son of a bitch.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in


In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.