Saturday, August 1, 2009

The PG Beat: Lincecum deals another gem, Giants offense does just enough to win (as always)

While this game didn't come as easy as the Pirates win, Lincecum had an incredible performance against the defending World Series-champion Phillies.

Seriously, when you watch it live, it's really incredible how good a Tim Lincecum start is. He makes guys look foolish up there. Biggest example? Ryan Howard. I don't think Howard ever had a good at-bat today in the Giants' 2-0 win on Saturday evening. He swung through changeups and was blown away by fastballs. There wasn't a single pitch the All-Star* (I asterisk him because he certainly didn't deserve to be an All-Star this year) first baseman could hit off the Freak. Sure he got a hit, but that was a measly infield single where Eugenio Velez took too much time with the ball and underestimated Howard's speed. Just look at Howard's other stat that is more telling his performance today: strikeouts. He had two in four at-bats. I think that says enough.

Overall, this was a rather quick, but entertaining game. It was nice to see a second game this week at AT&T Park, and it was a lot better paced than the long Zito start against Pittsburgh. That being said, this wasn't exactly the greatest of Giants wins. The Giants basically won this game on the bases, as strange as that sounds considering they didn't have a stolen base and got caught stealing on a failed hit-and-run. You would think they nearly gave it away on the bases, right? Not vice versa.

Not exactly. Some great tagging up, and some risky moves at third ended up paying off in the Giants' win. Key moment of the game? Matt Stairs basket catching a Juan Uribe shallow pop-up which scored Aaron Rowand from third in the fifth. Now, if Stairs catches this fly ball like he should, or if Utley calls him off, no way Rowand scores. But because Stairs caught it awkwardly, third base coach Tim Flannery decided to take a chance Stairs couldn't make a good throw because of the awkward catch, and misfired on his throw home and Rowand scored to make it 1-0, which is all the Giants needed until the seventh where Travis Ishikawa scored on another Uribe sac fly (only this one was deep enough from the start).

(Just to add onto that, what a ballsy call on sending Rowand home by the way. I think 95 times out of 100, a third base coach would hold the guy at third. Instead, knowing the team needed momentum, Flannery let's Rowand go for it. This may be the most underrated coaching decision of the year for the Giants).

Say what you want about baseball, but it's the little things that win it for you, and tonight showed exactly that. Blanton and Lincecum went toe to toe with each other and each had their rough parts in certain innings, but in the end, they both had great performances they couldn't shake their heads about. The only difference? The Giants got the little things done in clutch situations and the Phillies didn't. Bottom line. Bases loaded jam with Ibanez up and the Phillies can't come through. Ishikawa and Rowand on third with one out? Uribe comes through, even though they are only sac flies. Just goes to show you how crucial the details and little things are in baseball.

Back to Lincecum, what a great start. I know Dan Haren for the Diamondbacks has better stats and ERA, but in my mind, Lincecum is the Cy Young winner if he keeps this up. He's defending the award better than any pitcher I have seen in the past decade. He is the catalyst for this team, and is absolutely dominant. Haren is good, but is he dominant like Lincecum? Does he strike fear into every batter that goes up to the plate? I don't think so. If anything Haren is closer to Matt Cain than Lincecum in terms of dominance. He's good, but he doesn't change and command a game like Lincecum. Lincecum's performance alone can help inspire his team a win, while with Haren, he's only going to look good statistically and little else. The team doesn't really respond to Haren like the Giants do to Lincecum when it's a close game.

Tomorrow will definitely be an interesting matchup as Cole Hamels goes against Barry Zito on the mound. Two lefties that have very similar stuff and approaches: big curve balls, not awesome fastballs, but get the job done-kind of pitchers. The pessimistic side of me wants to give this one to the Phillies, but for some reason, I just feel like the offense is due. Never mind the stats, this Giants team hit the ball hard today against a pitcher in Blanton who was doing very good in his last five outings. That isn't chicken scratch. Not a lot of teams were doing diddly against Blanton at the dish as of late, and the Giants were able to do at least something today: give him an L in his record.

Thus, the optimistic side of me thinks that the Giants may be due. Of course, this side has been wrong more often than not, but hey, I can still try, right?


Postgame box notes:

Winning pitcher: Tim Lincecum (12-3) 8 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 8 SO.
Losing pitcher: Joe Blanton (7-5) 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 SO.

Giants standouts: Travis Ishikawa, 2-for-4. Fred Lewis, 2-for-3. Aaron Rowand, 2B (26). Juan Uribe, 2 sac fly-RBI.
Phillies standouts: Jayson Werth, 2-for-3.

Probable starters for next game: Hamels (7-5) vs. Zito (6-10).

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