Once upon a time, and not too long ago, Josh Beckett and Tim Lincecum were on top of their games. They were the best pitchers on their teams and winners of individual awards year after year.
Both have pitched in huge games. Both are World Series champions. If not for the stars failing to line-up just right, they might have even met in the fall classic when Beckett was a member of the Boston Red Sox and Lincecum a two-time Cy Young award winner as a youngster with the San Francisco Giants.
Lincecum is still with the Giants. Beckett was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season from Boston.
The Giants won the World Series last year and in large part to Lincecum’s rejuvenation as a bullpen guy. It seemed to fit Timmy like a glove, but this year he is back in the rotation. Despite a big drop in velocity and a little lost command, he gets the opportunity mainly out of respect of his past accomplishments.
Beckett, on the other hand, has been on a steady decline. Still an effective pitcher, he has lost his dominating set of pitches and often struggles with location and high pitch counts. He remains a bulldog on the hill, but he’s hardly the hurler he once was.
On Wednesday night, the two veterans squared off, both with something to prove. However, decorated individually, they are part of one of the biggest rivalries in baseball. Taking the ball as the third option in their team’s starting rotations, anything can happen… and probably will even when they have long been removed from the game.
Neither pitcher was too effective in their first outings of the year. Both struck out four, but Lincecum walked seven to Beckett’s one. The difference was the two home runs Beckett surrendered. The Giants were leading 5-2 when both pitchers were removed, Beckett after six innings and Lincecum after five. San Francisco went on to beat the Dodgers 5-3.