Lincecum laments 'garbage start'
Righty sets SF strikeout mark, allows six runs in 4 1/3 innings
SAN FRANCISCO -- In a way, Tim Lincecum's deflating performance Tuesday night in the Giants' 9-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies barely affected his Cy Young Award candidacy.The issue remains whether members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who cast Cy Young ballots judge Lincecum -- and his most direct rival for the National League award, Arizona's Brandon Webb -- on their body of work or on late-season trends. But, if you believe that one performance can besmirch Lincecum's overall 2008 performance enough to give Webb the trophy, then this game was a disaster for the Giants right-hander. "To be honest with you, I felt like that was a pretty garbage start," Lincecum said. Here's what he tossed into the dumpster: six runs allowed, a season high. A 4 1/3-inning performance, matching his shortest start of the season -- and that one was truncated by a Brad Ausmus line drive that struck Lincecum's leg and caused a bone bruise that knocked him out of the game. Five walks, equaling another season high. Lincecum, who ranks third in the league with 220 innings pitched and leads the NL with 3,585 pitches thrown, affirmed that he felt physically sound and would make his scheduled start Sunday against the Dodgers. Seizing upon Monday's scheduled off-day, manager Bruce Bochy rearranged the pitching rotation last week to give Lincecum an extra start. "I felt strong. I just wasn't throwing pitches where I needed to be when I should have," Lincecum said. "I wasn't able to establish any rhythm. I wasn't attacking the zone enough, plain and simple. I want to make a bounce back. I'll definitely be interested in taking that ball -- I want that ball. ... My fastball still feels live, changeup's still moving, curveball's still breaking. It's just a matter of where you throw it." Bochy said that he and the club's brain trust would "huddle up" to discuss starting Lincecum on Sunday.
"If he wants to and feels fine, then he can have it," Bochy said.Lincecum displayed glimpses of his usual form. He struck out nine, hiking his season total to 252 and eclipsing Jason Schmidt's San Francisco-era single-season franchise mark of 251 set in 2004. But that provided Lincecum scant consolation. Asked what this record meant to him, Lincecum replied, "Today, right now, not much. Coming out there throwing like that and leaving like I did, I don't feel like that's me. I feel like I should have given my team a better chance to win. If I'm going to take anything positive from the game, I guess that's it." Whether Cy Young voters derive anything flattering about Lincecum can't be determined by the bare numbers. Lincecum's aforementioned strikeout total leads the Major Leagues. But his NL-best ERA ballooned from 2.46 to 2.66, thrusting him into second place behind Johan Santana of the New York Mets (2.64). And Lincecum still leads the league in winning percentage, .772 to Webb's .759. But Webb owns a 22-7 record to Lincecum's 17-5. If Cy Young voters follow traditional thinking, that large a disparity in victories would favor Webb. Bent on helping Lincecum's cause, the Giants announced that they will appeal a fourth-inning scoring decision that tacked two earned runs onto Lincecum's line. With the Giants clinging to a 3-2 lead, Colorado scored two runs on Troy Tulowitzki's ground ball to the left of third baseman Rich Aurilia, who did not come up with the ball. Official scorer Michael Duca initially ruled the play an error, which made the runs unearned, but changed it to a hit after the game. Aurilia preferred the initial call.
"One more error in my career isn't going to make a difference in my credentials," he said. "I gladly would take that to take Timmy off the hook."Whether Lincecum's ERA is a few points higher or lower shouldn't make a difference, Bochy said.
"I think you have to look at the season. You don't look at one start," Bochy said. "You look at what this guy has accomplished this year ... at the consistency he has had."Consistency eluded Lincecum against the Rockies. He struck out at least two batters in each full inning he pitched, yet clearly lacked his usual command. He issued two walks in the first inning after Tulowitzki singled, helping him come around to score. The Giants surged ahead against Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez (12-12) with a three-run second inning that included Aaron Rowand's run-scoring double, his first RBI in September. But Colorado surged back as Seth Smith drilled a first-pitch homer in the third inning. A walk and Smith's ground-rule double preceded Tulowitzki's disputed hit one inning later. Bochy removed Lincecum after Chris Iannetta walked on four pitches and Ian Stewart doubled with one out in the fifth. Reliever Keiichi Yabu then surrendered Joe Koshansky's two-run double and Smith's RBI single. Lincecum continued to insist that he cares less about the Cy Young than about helping the Giants win. "I'm not taking any pressure from the Cy Young; that's the last thing on my mind," he said. "I'm stuck in the here and now." Lincecum admitted that, from the perspective of the award, Sunday will give him an opportunity for redemption.
"It's good I have that extra start, get a chance to bounce back and give myself a chance," he said. "But, at the same time, I'm not going out there pitching for the Cy Young. I'm not going out there pitching for any award. I'm pitching for myself and I'm pitching for my team."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.