San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Game 1 Pitching Preview: Lincecum vs. Beckett

The San Francisco Giants will host arch rival Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend in a pivotal three-game set that could potentially sway the NL-West standings in the weeks leading up to the 2012 MLB post season.  Currently, the Giants have a 4.5 game cushion on the Dodgers with less than four weeks left in the regular season, which makes every game that much more crucial.

This season, San Francisco leads the season series against Los Angeles 7-5, with one more series left in LA before an NL-West title is crowned.  But let’s start with baseball’s most crucial element: pitching.

In the first of three matchups, Tim Lincecum (6-14, 5.21 ERA) will take the mound against the Dodgers’ recent acquisition Josh Beckett (6-12, 5.03 ERA).  The two-time Cy Young winner has had his fair share of ugly starts this year, and then some, but has recently experienced marginal strides in the right direction.  Since the All-Star break, Lincecum has tallied a 5-4 record with a  3.26 ERA.  He even excels against the Dodgers, owning a 2.55 ERA in three starts (two victories).  If this is all just a ploy to keep Giants’ fans grounded, it could just as easily work…again.

“When I’ve had to dig deep, I’ve done it.” said Lincecum.  “I had a terrible August in 2010 and I got out of that.  This first half was my terrible August, and we’re still in our position.  I just have to keep pushing hard and working in the right direction.”

As for Beckett, he’s only strapped up his laces with the Dodgers twice this season, so there’s no use calibrating his stats thus far.  But let’s try.  The 32-year-old right-hander stands in as the No. 2 starter for LA, but doesn’t have much of a resume to prove his worth there.  This year, Beckett has posted a tumultuous 6-12 record (albeit with the imploding Red Sox) while carrying a 5.03 ERA into Friday’s matchup.  Experts have suggested that he doesn’t seem to be locating his fastballs and has struggled with pitches up in the strike zone, two elements to pitching that are absolutely vital.  It’s not looking good.

So, with so much on the line in the waning weeks of the regular season, it’s imperative for two former aces to get back on the right track.

For Lincecum, he’s been here before.  During the Giants’ historic run to the 2010 World Series, the five-year pro felt the weight of critics, writers and anyone who had an opinion to question his velocity and his ability to locate strikeout pitches that he so easily mastered in his first five years of experience.  But “Big-Timmy-Time” quieted critics in September and October by pitching Cy-Young baseball and heading the charge for a Giants’ World Series title.  And a good outing against the Dodgers could help bring that faith back to the Giants organization, as well as its growing fan base.

For Beckett, it’s much of the same.  He’s not living up to his ace status this year that was placed upon by the Red Sox nation.  Many analysts, as well as the Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, agree that a change in scenery (and a move from the AL-East to the pitcher-friendly NL-West) is all that’s needed to boost his confidence and settle into winning baseball.

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