Lincecum mostly contains Manny
Dodgers slugger singles, walks in first clash with Giants ace
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum knew he had to be a little bit inventive Wednesday night when he faced Manny Ramirez.Typically, Lincecum doesn't mess around. He's not one of those pitchers who gets ahead 0-2 on the count then works it full by trying to hit a corner. When strike three is one pitch away, he goes for it. But Lincecum, arguably the National League's most dynamic pitcher as its Cy Young Award winner last year, figured that it wouldn't be enough simply to go after Ramirez, widely considered baseball's most dangerous hitter. Lincecum indeed approached Ramirez aggressively during San Francisco's 9-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the Giants ace did so with a twist. Lincecum figured that he would vary the pace of his deliveries to Ramirez.
"High knee kick, slide-step, that kind of thing," said Lincecum, who blanked Los Angeles on three hits through seven innings before yielding three runs in the eighth. "He still put some good swings on the ball, but I was fortunate that he didn't hurt me too bad."Consider their confrontation a standoff. Lincecum, who had never faced Ramirez, retired him in his first two plate appearances on a line drive and a fly ball, both to right field and each time with a fastball. Ramirez singled to right in his third at-bat before drawing an eighth-inning walk, which happened to end Lincecum's evening. Ramirez said little when asked about facing Lincecum. "I don't know," the slugger said. "He's a Cy Young [winner]." Befitting his award-winning status, Lincecum succeeded in executing his plan, though Ramirez made solid contact in each at-bat. "We tried to make him hit the ball to right field," Giants catcher Bengie Molina said. "A couple of times, we tried fastballs away and they came back right into the middle of the plate, maybe middle-in. That was the hit he got." Said Lincecum, "I just went with my instincts and what Bengie was calling."
Hitter vs. Heater
|In his first career matchup against reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Manny Ramirez went 1-for-3 with a walk.|
|1st||Lineout to right field on 0-1 pitch|
|4th||Flyout to right field on 1-1 pitch|
|6th||Line-drive single to right field on 1-0 pitch|
|8th||Walked on a 3-1 pitch|
Molina wanted to tantalize Ramirez by requesting changeups, which often function as Lincecum's strikeout pitch. But Ramirez didn't exactly work deep counts. He connected with an 0-1 pitch in his first at-bat, a 1-1 offering his second time up and a 1-0 pitch in his third at-bat before walking on five pitches in his final plate appearance against Lincecum."He didn't give us many chances," Molina said.
From his vantage point of playing first base for the Giants, Rich Aurilia wondered how Ramirez would handle Lincecum's array of stuff, which is virtually unmatched in either league."It looked to me that [Ramirez] was trying to stay inside of everything and hit it the other way," said Aurilia, a 14-year veteran. "He knows Timmy has the offspeed stuff, he knows his fastball has great velocity, so try to stay back and hit it up the middle. Manny's a great hitter. Not a lot of pitchers are going to have extended success against him. So if we can get out of that game tonight with a win and give him a hit or two, that's fine by us." From the vantage point of the Giants' dugout, anticipation surrounding the Lincecum-Ramirez faceoffs was genuine. "You have one of the best hitters in the game and one of the best pitchers in the game," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We enjoy those matchups." Said Giants closer Brian Wilson, who retired Ramirez on a grounder to shortstop to end the game, "We all watch the game, but I think more eyes are going to be focused on a player of his caliber, for sure." The Giants play the Dodgers again next weekend in Los Angeles. Barring rainouts or unexpected changes, Lincecum will pitch the May 10 series finale. Ramirez will be waiting.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.