Freakish

October 7

There they sat, two old souls.

One was a rookie catcher, the other a veteran but just 26. For Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum, it was their first postseason game, but in the post-game media room, they looked like they’d been there before.

Yet no Giants pitcher had ever been in the zone in which Lincecum found himself Thursday night at AT and T Park. 14 strikeouts and a two-hit shutout of the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS. It was an all-time Giants postseason record for K’s.

Lincecum made note of all the great arms that have thrown for the Giants over the years. Although he didn’t mention them by name, I’ll do it here because it gives gravity to his feat: Mathewson, Hubbell, Marichal, Perry.

Braves manager Bobby Cox put it simply: “he was lights out.” Cox came to a gunfight with a butter knife, missing two of his best hitters, Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. Only Brian McCann and Omar Infante reached Lincecum, but Derek Lowe and the Braves bullpen kept them in the game. Sort of.

Infante led off the game with a double and Lincecum knew he had to calm himself down. Lincecum said he told himself that if he threw his pitches the way they were supposed to be thrown, he’d be alright. Sounds simple enough, and it worked.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy trusted Lincecum all the way. He trusted Lincecum when he struggled back in August when all of the Bay Area was in a dither, and he said there was no hesitation to send Lincecum out in the 9th inning Thursday night. That trust was richly rewarded.

Lincecum wasn’t as great as Roy Halladay the night before, but he wasn’t that far off. A ton of swing-throughs and just one walk. Posey had an idea of how Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz felt the night before.

Posey said he only had to go out and talk to Lincecum a couple of times, and after that Lincecum was locked in. He wasn’t in Halladay’s stratosphere but it was the best game Lincecum has pitched in his brief but great career. He had his power change working early and his fastball working late with late movement.

I don’t think you can underestimate the one week’s rest Lincecum received, although he said he was anxious to pitch two days earlier. His fastball had extra life and his breaking stuff had extra snap. If you look at the results, the extra days rest he received in September certainly paid off down the stretch, and it paid off Thursday as well.

Bochy might be mulling over starting Lincecum in a possible Game 4, but if he does, he should have an extra-short leash.

Posey was a major factor Thursday, not only behind the plate but at bat. He hit a booming double to center field in the 6th, reaching third when Rick Ankiel bobbled the ball, but the Giants left him stranded with Pablo Sandoval hitting into a buzz-killing double play on the first pitch from Jonny Venters.

Posey also singled to lead off the 4th and came around to score after a pivotal series of moves.

Posey was in motion on a 3-2 pitch to Pat Burrell because Bruce Bochy was wary of hitting into another double play off Lowe. Burrell struck out but Posey was called safe at second base, although he appeared to be out. Posey cagily said he was glad there wasn’t official replay.

Cox doesn’t favor replay but said a few players came into the dugout after the inning ended and told him Posey was out by six to eight inches. That turned out to be a critical call in the Giants’ favor.

After Juan Uribe struck out, Cox had Sandoval intentionally walked. It seemed like a curious move because Sandoval looked lost in striking out against Lowe in the 2nd inning.

It got curiouser after that. With Lincecum on deck, Lowe pitched to Cody Ross. He hit a ground ball past Omar Infante, who did his best Roger Dorn imitation and failed to reach down in time. Posey came in to score, and Lincecum had his one run.

Cox said afterward that although Sandoval struck out the first time, he was 4 for 10 against Lowe going into the game, and Lowe did induce a ground ball by Ross. If Infante gloves it, it could be a double play.

Not having Jones or Prado really hurts the Braves defense. They have to run Brooks Conrad and his frying-pan hands out to second base. At third, Infante looks like he has the reaction time of a dubbed-over Japanese horror flick.

As it turned out, that one run looked like four with Lincecum on the mound. And August never seemed so far away. This was the Lincecum 2.0 we’ve been blogging about — no longer possessing a 95 mile an hour fastball but still pretty damn effective.

Two old souls. Lincecum and Posey. They represent the future of the Giants, and the now.

Now another old soul, 26-year-old Matt Cain, has to follow this act Friday night.

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2 Responses to “Freakish”

  1. Jules Says:

    Ray – I think you are so amazing on KNBR – you are the smart one and you never miss a beat. The joy of my team that I first remember listening to when I was 6 (if that) as my sister who is 10 years my senior was a huge fan back in the ’60s – I have over-taken her and raised my kids that way too – what they did today, leaving Barry off the roster is in fact or IMO caving to all the complaining fans. I understand not having him start, he isn’t hot right now, however I watched every game he pitched this year and for the most part HE was fab. A win in April doesn’t count any less than a game won last week, he had no run support as you well know. My beloved team did an extremely un-classy thing – I am sad and glad I didn’t spend millions to get tickets, it hurts so much more because I love the Giants – it’s the way I would feel if someone I trusted and loved did something unethical. I hope I can recover from this “kick in the gut” and enjoy these games like I enjoyed the games all season. Lincecum was great, but I only watched the last 2 innings.

  2. corbyanderson Says:

    Ray – This is excellent storytelling. I am really excited to read your thoughts after hearing bits here and there on the radio and wondering what else there was to your story.

    Keep it up. It’s a great insiders view,

    And it’s that kind of year. It may just happen!
    Corby Anderson
    Marina
    Ca

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