The best stat-line of the night for pitchers belongs to a guy who I never thought would one day be “under-the-radar.” Hopefully, for Tim Lincecum, Monday night’s start against the lowest scoring team in baseball was just what he needed to get his career going in the right direction again.
Lincecum, who entered the game sporting a 5.55 ERA, completely dominated the Braves for nearly 8 innings last night in the Giants’ 4-2 victory. The Braves, who are just 4-7 in May, had just come off a three game sweep of the National League-worst Chicago Cubs. Lincecum had different a plan for this series, however. After walking Jason Heyward to begin the game, Lincecum retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced before giving up the first Braves hit of the game, a solo home run by B.J. Upton, in the top of 5th inning. In fact, Upton, who would later hit a double in the 7th, managed the only two hits off of Lincecum. After going 7.2 innings allowing just two hits, one run, and walking four, Lincecum was pulled in favor Juan Guitierrez. In what was easily his best game of the season, Lincecum struck out a season-high 11 batters, his highest total since July 13 of last season.
Going forward, the Giants need Tim Lincecum to perform more like the CY Young Award winner he was in ’08 and ’09 and less like the subpar, hit-and-walk machine he has become in ’12 and ’13. Though he doesn’t need to be an ace anymore, the 29 year-old clearly has a lot left in the tank and should be able to perform adequately as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Thanks to some brilliant early season pitching performances by Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have gotten off to a fast start, leading the NL West by 2.5 games over the Rockies. However, with the mighty Dodgers lurking a few games behind the Rockies and the Diamondbacks starting to heat up in May, the Giants cannot continue to rely on two of their starting five pitchers. While they hope Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong can return to the pitchers they were in their World Series winning 2012 season, the Giants know that Tim Lincecum is their wildcard. If Lincecum can be even a fraction as good as he was from 2008-2011, the Giants know that the city of San Francisco might be celebrating a second world championship in three years.