After striking out 15 batters and pitching nine innings despite no shutout on the line, Lincecum inched closer to Pedro Martinez, the gold standard of modern pitchers.15, baby. That's how many strikeouts Tim Lincecum had in the Giants' 4-2 win over Pittsburgh tonight. In many ways, Lincecum's performance tonight further proved to me that he is becoming the "Pedro Martinez" of this current generation of pitchers. You know what his stuff is. You know what he pitches he has to offer, you know what he is capable of, and still...he mows them down. That's something Pedro did on a regular basis. Everybody knew the scouting report on Pedro back in his days in Montreal, and yet, on a consistent basis, Pedro stepped up to the challenge and took the opposition down with ease until he ran into shoulder problems in 2004.
However, making that comparison of Lincecum to Pedro has been tough to do mainly because he doesn't have the cockiness or mean attitude of Simmons' favorite pitcher. Pedro could care less if he hit a batter in the head with a ball. Pedro could care less if a bench coach charging him in anger was fat, 60 years old and senile. Pedro was a surefire killer on the mound, and unfortunately, Lincecum does not have that. He doesn't have the nastiness in terms of attitude, he doesn't have the mean cockiness, but rather a Mark Fidrych, goofy cockiness that endears him even to opposing fans, something Pedro couldn't do in his wildest dreams because opposing fans hated Pedro so much. I can't ever see an opposing fan flat out hating Lincecum. He's like Floyd Patterson to Pedro's Sonny Liston. Even if you're team gets KO'd by Lincecum like the Pirates did tonight, at the end you're kind of like "Well...at least he seems like a great kid."
Because of that lack of mean streak, Lincecum will never be Pedro fully. That being said, he did show a Pedro-esque grit by taking the mound in the ninth. Look, he had nothing to prove by going out there in the ninth. He lost the shutout in the sixth, it was only a two-run game. Wilson certainly could have come against the five-six-seven hitters and punched his 26th save, and everyone would have been fine with that. Everybody still would have been talking about how Lincecum tied his career high in strikeouts tonight.
Instead, Lincecum, with the game still within striking distance, went out to the mound, with a pitch count over 100, and simply nailed the coffin in the ninth, striking out two hitters in the process to set a new game high in strikeouts at 15. Yet I don't think it was at all about the strikeouts. I really believe he could care less about setting a new season-high. Instead, he had the mentality that "This was his game, and nobody else was going to finish it."
In my mind, tonight's game and his decision to finish the game off was a step in the maturation process of Lincecum. We've seen this kid progress from hot-rookie, to team ace and now, he's making the transition to "big-time gamer." That's not an easy status to get. Guys like Pedro, Josh Beckett and Roger Clemens have status like this. Is Lincecum there yet? Not quite, but he's almost there, because only a guy who shows characteristics of the "big-time gamer" would go out in the ninth in a 4-2 game like Lincecum did tonight. Hopefully, this performance only bodes better things for the "Freak," not only for the rest of the season, but for the rest of his tenure in San Francisco as well (which I hope will be a very long time).
As for the game itself, it was a typical Giants offensive performance...but in a good way. We mustered up enough offense to win and you know what? I'll take it. A win is a win in my book and add that with the fact that both the Dodgers and Rockies lost, and we finally gained some ground in the standings for the first time in a long while. With both the Dodgers and the Rockies on the road, and the Giants playing at home, this could be a big homestand for the Giants. If the Giants can continue their hot play a AT&T, and if the Dodgers and Rockies can lose more games on their respective road trips, then the Giants can finally gain some of that momentum they swung a hold of back in June, and carry that into August, which is a crucial month during the baseball season.
The "Panda" came through with a big game tonight, as evidenced by his 3-for-4 performance at the plate. However, the big story was the Giants sending down Bowker and Downs and recalling Guzman and Velez. To be perfectly honest, I was surprised. I did not expect this to happen. Don't get me wrong, I like that both those guys are down, but calling up Guzman and Velez? Quite peculiar, and it makes you wonder if Sabean has something else up his sleeve other than the Ryan Garko deal he pulled this afternoon. I have a feeling there is, and I think Freddy Sanchez not playing tonight was a hint that something will be announced soon (most likely involving Sanchez...if you get what I'm trying to say...wink).
Lastly, great ceremony for Sue Burns, the Giants minority owner who passed away last week. It was wonderful how they put it together, and it was even better that the Giants were able to honor her passing with a W. Furthermore, good stuff in terms of seeing Barry Bonds back at AT&T Park. My dad recognized how slim Bonds looked tonight, and in all honesty, he really did look a little less bulky from his last days in a Giants uniform in 2007. Whether that is surprising or not considering his steroid circumstances, I will leave that to the cynic in you. Nonetheless, it was cool to see Bonds back at the ballpark, even if it was in civilian clothes. Granted, I don't think we'll see him in a Giants uniform ever again, and I wouldn't want to either, but still...you can't hate Bonds if you're a Giants fan. He gave us too many memories.
Big win for the Giants, and hopefully this is the spark they need to get the ball rolling on this homestand. I'll be going to the game tomorrow with a friend, so I might be doing something special on the blog tomorrow night after I get back from the game, so definitely check it out.
Postgame box notes:
Winning pitcher: Tim Lincecum (11-3) 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 15 SO.
Losing pitcher: Paul Maholm (6-5) 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.
Giants standouts: Andres Torres, 3B (5). Randy Winn, 2-for-4. Pablo Sandoval, 3-for-4, 2B (29). Bengie Molina, 2B (19).
Pirates standouts: Delwyn Yong, 2B (7). Steve Pearce, 2B (4).
Probable starters for next game: Morton (2-2) vs. Zito (6-10).