PITTSBURGH There was just one question to ask after thePittsburgh Pirates blew the Giants and Tim Lincecum to smithereens in a 13-2loss at PNC Park on Sunday.
And it wasnt to inquire which palm tree theyll wobble underneath for theAll-Star break.
Its this: Will Lincecum really and truly get the baseballon Saturday, with just one extra day of rest? Or will the Giants look at his6.42 ERA the absolute worst among qualified major league starting pitchers and reconsider?
No, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. No chance. Wellthrow him back out there.
So there you go.
The Giants remain near the front of the pack in the NL West.Can they really afford to throw Lincecum to the wolves?
You might ask the question another way: If Lincecum cannotturn it around, will it matter?
He has to regroup and we need him, Bochy said. Hell bedetermined to turn this around.
After another 3 13-inning, six-run meltdown in humid but bearable conditions, Lincecum is 3-10 the Giants first double-digit loser at the break since Barry Zito in 2008.
Lincecums 6.42 ERA is the highest of every blessed one of the 101 major leaguestarters who qualify for the ERA title. Remember the sheer panic that followedZito during his worst times? He never had an ERA as high as Lincecumsheading into the break. (Youll find many more brutal, revealing numbers in the Instant Replayfile.)
Lincecums quiet, almost lip-trembling postmortem containedthe phrases, terrible and rock bottom and weak link.
All accurate descriptions. But what about answers? How does Lincecum begin toprocess this?
I think the only way I can look at is you never want tosay, Hey, Ive hit rock bottom or anything like that, but things are going asbad as they are right now, and youve got to go out there like youve gotnothing left to lose, Lincecum said. Go out and leave it on the field andwhatever happens, happens.
Its happened, all right. It began happening three battersinto his start against the first-place Pirates, when he couldnt throw strikeswith his fastball. He tried to backdoor a curveball to Neil Walker. Double. Hetried to throw a changeup to Andrew McCutchen. Home run.
Fastball location hasnt been there the last couple gamesso Im going to my secondary pitches and guys are sitting on those, Lincecumsaid. They made the adjustment. Ive just got to make the adjustment back.
They adjusted in another sense. They no longer look at histhin frame and long hair and the No.55 and see an ace. They see vulnerability.
The fear has pooled atop the mound, not in the batters box.
Bochy said Lincecum just needed to forget the first half.Lincecum wasnt in complete agreement.
I have to remember it and use it to know what I dont wantto go through again, said the introspective right-hander, who has used hispostgame media sessions more and more as a kind of therapy. Its been terribleand its a terrible feeling youre letting your team down. Thats the hardestthing.
But it seems everybody else is doing their job and wereplaying good ball. To be the weaker link it wears on you.
The Giants maintain faith in Lincecum, mostly because theyfeel they have no choice. Of course, use a day off after the Houston series toskip his turn. They could give him up to 13 days between starts, instead ofjust five.
Does Lincecum see their decision as a show of faith?
Yeah, I mean, obviously they have faith in me and they toldme that from the first meeting I had with them, he said. So thats not thequestion.
Its whether or not I go out there and trust my stuff andexecute it. That other stuff is off the field or before the game or after thegame. When you get out there between those lines you arent thinking about thatbecause one through five, were pretty good as a starting staff goes.
"I dont want to be that weak link, like everyone thinkstheyre going to run into a bump or a stump. Im working my ass off to be whereI need to be and thats really all I can do.
That the Giants are sticking Lincecum right back on themound Saturday indicates something else: that they arent hiding an injury.
It would be convenient, almost, if Lincecum had a sore elbowor a bad back or an aching shoulder or even a hangnail. But he said nothing iswrong. And he said he doesnt needto overhaul his mechanics.
I feel like its more of a fine-tune, he said. I mean,Ive always gone back to if Im hurt or something is wrong or I feel liketheres something painful in my body or theres inflammation there, thats aninclination that Im using bad mechanics.
So I feel its small things here and there that I just needto tinker with or find consistency with to find that fastball location, findthat secondary location. So thats pretty much it.
He isnt feeling any pain or inflammation?
No, thats one of the confusing things, he said. Im notgoing through any injuries or health issues or anything like that.
Its confusing to Lincecum, to his legions of fans, toBochy, to the front office and to all of the baseball establishment. Sometimesthere are no answers. Sometimes there is just fear pooling in the wrong places.
Lincecum will go to Seattle for the All-Star break his firsttime not representing the Giants at the Midsummer Classic since his rookie yearin 2007. He said he sees the second half as a chance for a fresh start.
But in the meantime, he will not take a mental break fromthe craft and the game he once dominated with poetic, balletic grace.
No, Im going to pick up a ball and keep my mind surroundedwith baseball, he said. I have to think about what Ive gone through in orderto remedy this.
I'm catching a flight home (too bad no All-Star Game in KC for me ... I was looking forward to an in-depth interview with Arthur Bryant), so no time for an Extra Baggs file after the game. Look for my midseason coverage later in the week, and I'll catch up with you again in Atlanta. Please make sure to follow my CSN colleagues during the Houston series. As always, thanks for reading.