Well, for the 735th time this season, the Giants took the first two games of a 3-game series and then gleefully punted the third off the side of the team bus. It tempts one to call into KNBR with a grand unified theory, linking the dropped third games, struggles with RISP, and Lincecum’s inability to put batters away into some Masonic-psychological conspiracy of clutch failure. I’ve got my big blackboard and my wall papered with scribbled sticky notes. Let’s do this.
It was a fairly miserable game, peppered with false hope and fleeting bright spots across the board. Jason Marquis absolutely dominated the Giants for most of the game, taking a 1-hitter into the 7th inning with a baffling repertoire based around the twin tactical concepts of “throw first-pitch strikes” and “whatever, Jason, have you seen this lineup? Just pitch.” With Sandoval injured and Posey out, it fell to Melky Cabrera to lead a lineup featuring such luminaries as Angel “batting cleanup with a .718 OPS” Pagan, Brandon “.236 OBP in July” Belt, and Joaquin “Joaquin Arias” Arias. Melky was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, so, yeah, that’s about how that went.
You were promised bright spots. The Giants mounted a bit of a rally in the 8th; although Arias took the wind out of it with a truly awful baserunning decision, it was still nice to see them refuse to go quietly into that good night. Ryan Theriot had a hell of a AB against the still extremely good Luke Gregerson. Finally, in his last PA of the night, Brandon Belt made contact with a changeup (Huston Street’s, no less!) for what seemed like the first time in his professional career, lining a solid double. If the Giants are going to stay ahead of the free-spending Dodgers and ever-dangerous Diamondbacks, a turnaround from Belt is going to have to be part of it, and changeups have been eating him alive lately. So that was nice to see!
Affeldt still looks really good. Kontos was good too. I expect to see him getting used in some higher-leverage situations soon. Brad Penny was…less good.
Well, I guess there’s nothing left but to talk about Timmy. As the title of this post implies, this start was more or less 2012 Linecum writ small – or more accurately, writ in huge garish neon letters, probably with outlines and in Zapf Chancery. He had ludicrous stuff, generating five strikeouts in the first two innings and getting swing-throughs on just about every pitch he had. Many a time he looked like the Tim Lincecum of old, the legend that Grandfather will speak of in halting, hushed tones on a cold winter night when the wolves howl and the moon hides her face.
On the other hand, y’know, he gave up a dinger to Jesus Guzman.
It really was a microcosm – strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts, and then suddenly the defense makes a goof and he’s hanging 87-MPH fastballs. Angel Pagan absolutely should have caught what would have been an inning-ending popup, but on the other hand, Timmy’s the guy who loaded the bases in the first place. Every mistake is punished, every defensive swing barely makes contact, every bloop is followed by a blast. Tim Lincecum can’t catch a break, but you also look at some of those pitches and wonder if he deserves one.
But oh man, those strikeouts. Piled to the heavens. Major-league hitters flailing impotently at fastballs that look like changeups, changeups that look like fastballs, and sliders that look like the inevitable heat death of the universe. There’s still reason for hope, just as after Timmy’s last two starts, there was still good reason to worry. This game answered zero questions except for “Are the Padres still annoying as hell?” Yes, yes they are.
Hopefully on Timmy’s next side session, he’ll just take Belt into the bullpen and throw him a steady diet of changeups until both of them re-learn what that pitch is and how it works. It’s no shame to avoid the sweep with a lineup that features Brandon Crawford batting fifth, but the reasons for the loss are particularly disheartening.
Day off tomorrow, followed by the brand spankin’ new Bums featuring Hanley Ramirez and probably Ryan Dempster or something similar. It’s going to be a moment of truth for our Giants, and the series could well end with the blue hordes back in first place. Let us pray.