Lincecum gets 200th K in 14th victory
Giants ace pads Major League-leading strikeout total
SAN FRANCISCO -- Omar Vizquel has a revisionist opinion about playing behind Tim Lincecum that probably never occurred to anybody who has seen the right-hander pitch."It's actually boring," the 20-year veteran said half-kiddingly. "I think it's better to see it from the dugout. ... When you're playing shortstop, you're barely getting one ground ball a game." For the record, Vizquel actually handled a whopping three grounders behind Lincecum on Friday night. But the defensive support Lincecum required was minimal, as he four-hit the San Diego Padres through eight innings in the Giants' 5-0 victory. Travis Ishikawa provided the biggest hit in San Francisco's five-run fourth inning with a three-run, opposite-field homer, which on most nights would have dominated any Giants news. But when Lincecum pitches, he inevitably occupies center stage with his performance and his growing list of accomplishments. Lincecum struck out eight to hike his total to a Major League-leading 200, thus becoming the first Giant since Jason Schmidt accumulated 251 K's in 2004 to reach that level. The 24-year-old is the ninth Giants pitcher to reach the 200-strikeout level since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. Lincecum also improved to 14-3, matching the second-best record among San Francisco pitchers through 17 decisions. He matched Juan Marichal (1968) and Scott Garrelts (1989) and trails only Gaylord Perry (15-2 in 1966). Contemplating Lincecum's record for a team that's 16 games below .500, Vizquel likened the prodigy to Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Marichal -- due to the unique deliveries they share, as well as their proficiency. Giants manager Bruce Bochy's range of compliments for Lincecum was virtually exhausted.
"Another tremendous job," Bochy said. "I don't know what else to say about him."With two outs in the seventh inning and Lincecum's strikeout total briefly resting at 199, the AT&T Park crowd stood and roared in anticipation as he got two strikes on Nick Hundley. The cheers rose as Lincecum fanned Headley with a 2-2 pitch. But Lincecum wasn't aware of his achievement until pitching coach Dave Righetti -- who grew up in San Jose rooting for the Giants, fittingly enough -- presented him with the ball that he fired past Headley as a memento and offered congratulations. "That was pretty nice to hear," said Lincecum, who accumulated 196 strikeouts last year (150 with the Giants and 46 at Triple-A) and totaled 199 as a junior at the University of Washington in 2006, his final collegiate season. "It's a big number." Lincecum's still stuck on zero in the complete-game category through 50 Major League starts. He appeared on track for his first after throwing 100 pitches in seven innings and retiring the first two Padres batters in the eighth on four pitches. But Lincecum walked Luis Rodriguez and Brian Giles before Adrian Gonzalez flied out, elevating his pitch count to 115 and prompting his removal. Asked what kind of pitch total Lincecum would need to stay in for the ninth, Bochy said, "It's more about watching him. He got two quick outs but he did labor on the next three hitters. He had trouble getting the ball where he wanted and he said that. I had made up my mind. I don't want to overwork this kid." Finishing the game wasn't a major issue for Lincecum.
"That's not really up to me," he said. "I would have been OK with going out there. Of course I'm going to say I feel good and I do."
He expressed desire to record a complete game someday -- "They're good to keep your bullpen fresh" -- but added, "If I don't, I'm still trying to do my job and give them what I can."If Ishikawa's recent efforts reflect what he can do, he might enter 2009 as the favorite to claim the first-base job. His second homer since his Aug. 13 hinted at his potential to generate the power that San Francisco sorely lacks. Asked if he can be at least an adequate long-ball source, Ishikawa replied, "I want to say yes, but it's not up to me. I put my trust in God and if that's what He wants to happen, I'm going to continue to work hard at it." The left-handed-batting Ishikawa avoided trying too hard when he drove the first pitch he saw in the fourth from Padres starter Cha Seung Baek (4-8) over the left-field barrier.
"I don't have that kind of strength to pull an outside pitch over the right-field fence, so I've learned to go with the pitch," he said.Ishikawa's hit ended the Giants' scoring. The rest of the evening was reserved for Lincecum's special brand of tedium, in Vizquel's estimation. "If that's what boring means," Lincecum said, "I like being boring."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.