Lincecum takes loss, likely not done in NLCS
Giants ace misses big chance, but may deliver again in 'pen
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum made his last start of the National League Championship Series for the Giants on Thursday evening at AT&T Park, but it certainly may not be his last appearance. He could still toss an inning or two in relief."No, I wouldn't say he's finished for the series," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after his club dropped Game 5 to the Phillies, 4-2. "If needed, it's one of these series that all hands are on deck and you have them all ready. He'll have a couple of days off and he'll be ready to go." In the second ragged head-to-head competition between Lincecum and Roy Halladay in the series, the Phillies prevailed when they absolutely had to, forcing Game 6 on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park -- and if they win that one, Game 7 on Sunday. Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain have those two starts, respectively, against Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Oswalt pitched the ninth inning in Game 4 and took the loss. The Giants still lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, but they know they missed a golden opportunity in front of their own wild fans, who are longing for the club's return to the World Series for the first time since 2002.
"Yeah, this feels like a lost opportunity for us," Lincecum said in a subdued Giants clubhouse after losing for the first time against two victories this postseason. "Obviously, we wanted to shut it down in front of the home crowd. It was a well-fought game. At times things probably didn't happen the way they should have."Lincecum, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner and postseason star at the ripe old age of 26, should be well aware that these chances may not come around again. In Giants lore among their stars, Willie Mays played in the World Series for them three times, while Willie McCovey, Will Clark and Barry Bonds each appeared once. Mays was the only World Series winner in 1954 as a 23-year-old when the franchise was still based in New York. But Lincecum seemed nonplussed. "You have to take advantage of the opportunities you get, I understand that, but Saturday's another day," he said. Halladay pitched six shaky innings with a right groin he tweaked in the second, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, but still was tough enough to earn the win, his second of this postseason. The other was the second no-hitter in postseason history in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Reds. Halladay's loss came, 4-3, to Lincecum in Game 1 of the NLCS at Philadelphia when each former Cy Young Award winner gave up a pair of home runs. On Thursday in a rainstorm that eased in and out throughout the evening, Lincecum started off strong, retiring the first six hitters. But a three-run third inning was his undoing. "He had a long inning there," Bochy said. "That probably caught up with him a little bit. The pitcher does have a tendency to make some mistakes when they have to work hard in a long inning, which catches up with a pitcher sometimes. And that one probably did." Lincecum allowed a leadoff single to Raul Ibanez and hit Carlos Ruiz, putting runners on first and second. A botched play on Halladay's sacrifice bunt and an error by first baseman Aubrey Huff on Shane Victorino's grounder allowed two runs to score. Placido Polanco singled home the third. It was an inning in which the defense didn't pick up Lincecum and the right-hander certainly didn't respond in kind. And it cost the Giants the game. Lincecum threw 104 pitches on the evening, but 30 in that particular inning. "I think I settled down pretty well after that," Lincecum said. "I found myself getting into a lot of holes against their hitters. I didn't throw a lot of first-pitch strikes. If we did a couple of things right we'd be singing a different tune right now. Those mistakes are going to happen. I could've done a better job myself after that error." Like Bochy, Lincecum isn't counting himself out of the series, either. He isn't done, he said. If the team needs him for an inning or two in relief, he'll be ready. "I just prepare myself for that bullpen day, and if they want to use it as an inning or what not I guess they'll tell me," he said. That bullpen day is Saturday. And if the Giants win out, there's always the Game 1 start in the World Series next Wednesday.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.