Linceblog: Death march averted; SF Giants, Lincecum show no surrender in comeback victory over Rockies

Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, the pride of Filipino-American baseball fans everywhere, had no idea he was pitching on what is known in U.S./Filipino WWII history as Bataan Valor Day—the day the U.S. surrendered Bataan to the Japanese, leading to the infamous death march.

That coincidence of history aside, Lincecum and the Giants could have easily given up Tuesday night with the Rockies ahead 6-2 in the 6th inning.

Instead, Lincecum regained his command just enough to keep his team in the game so the Giants’ offense could stun the Rockies 9-6.

“I thought he threw the ball great and he didn’t let the game get out of control,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy speaking of Lincecum. “He kept us from going to the (bullpen) early, and gave us a chance to make that comeback and what a great comeback the guys made.”

Lincecum looked like he was in control from the start, but the second inning by his own estimation was “a doozy.”

After a nine-pitch first inning, Lincecum began the second with a four-pitch walk to Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki, the last two 91 and 92 mph fastballs that missed.

It would be the first of three walks that inning alone, including a walk to the pitcher Juan Nicasio. (“Pitchers should be outs,” said Lincecum later, frustrated by having walked Nicasio twice in the game). The self-inflicted trouble loaded the bases and was compounded by a two-run Dexter Fowler double, followed by a Josh Rutledge two –run single.

When I asked Lincecum the difference between his pitching between the first and the second innings, he knew right away.

“Rhythm, I guess you can say, that’s about it,” he said. “It wasn’t mechanical or just a timing issue.”

Lincecum said he righted himself by looking at video on his own after that second inning.

What did it show?

“Stuff I needed to see,” he said. No reason to give away any of his trade secrets.

He also said it wasn’t a matter of stamina.

“I think I’m where I need to be stamina wise,” Lincecum said. “But I can still get better at locating my pitches and erasing those five-run innings.”

Lincecum said after giving up those five runs, he was “just trying to settle in, be competitive and battle as long as I could.”  

Take away that second inning, the 4 walks, and the six earned-runs,  and his pitching line wasn’t all that bad: 104 pitches, 61 strikes, 43 balls, 7 strikeouts.

Bochy said he was impressed with Lincecum’s stuff and feels that in spite of missing time in spring training,  Lincecum is where he should be now.

Interestingly, I noticed how all the pre-game talk, the “Hector-Sanchez-as–DLC (Designated Lincecum Catcher)” was hardly worth a mention later.

Does the Hector for Posey thing really make a difference to Lincecum?

“Not really,” he said. “I got to go out and compete. Whether you got someone else in the outfield or catching, I have to do my job.”

The Giants didn’t miss Posey’s offense either, which at 5-24 (.208) hasn’t been great anyway.

In fact, the Giants, overall, were hitting just .231 and averaging under 3 runs a game for the first six games.  But on this night it wasn’t just the hot hitters: Pagan, Panda and Pence carrying the load.

Brandon Crawford delivered a three-run home run to left off reliever Adam Ottavino to get the Giants to within 1 run in the 6th.

And then in the 8th, the Giants scored 3 more runs on 5 hits.  The game saw contributions up and down the lineup, including Scutaro (3h, 1RBI), and Blanco (a bunt single RBI).

So the victory was a good boost for the team. And except for that one inning, a boost for Lincecum, too. He didn’t get the win, but he didn’t take a loss either.  A wash? If he learned a lot just watching film on that second inning, this game could be a gold mine.

He’s not totally back to his prime. But after two imperfect starts,  if  Lincecum keeps his poise and battles like he did tonight, his 2013 campaign should be far from a death march.