He’s like a reverse Dark Knight: Tim Lincecum might not be the reliever the San Francisco Giants deserve, but he’s the one they need right now.
I wrote prior to game three that, regardless of whether he’s coming out of the bullpen or not, the Giants would not bow out of the series without calling upon their embattled former ace. That proved to be the case in this afternoon’s pivotal game four of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, as starter Barry Zito struggled early on, throwing 76 pitches in just 2.2 innings before having to be bailed out by the bullpen.
Lincecum answered, facing 15 Reds batters in 4.1 stellar innings, allowing just two hits and a single run to Drew Stubbs (who doubled and wound up scoring on a sacrifice fly), while striking out six batters. The shut-down performance was crucial in halting a Cincinnati offense that looked poised to tie the game early on, and gave the Giants offense enough room to muster their own outbursts, with two runs in the fifth and three more in the seventh that put the game out of reach.
It was just the sort of performance you’d expect from a former Cy Young winner, and the player who helped the Giants to their 2010 title – even if Lincecum didn’t begin the game on the mound. The stakes were not quite as high in this afternoon’s contest, but the Giants backs aren’t quite as close to the wall anymore, thanks in large part to Lincecum’s relief outing.
The team may have made a controversial decision to start Ryan Vogelsong and Zito over Lincecum, but the move paid off in spades: with a 6.1IP-3H-1ER-0BB-8K line in the series, Lincecum is right back where he was just two years ago – as the best pitcher on the Giants.
Thanks to that, the Giants have now bought themselves a chance to win a series that seemed oh-so-out of reach only days ago.