Overpowering Lincecum, bad call too much for hobbling Braves
SAN FRANCISCO -- The playing of
But when AT&T Park played the Metallica anthem on Thursday night, there was, of course, no sighting of
Lincecum brought with him command of an unfair multitude of pitches -- including an improved slider he's fully incorporated into his arsenal only recently -- and he retired the side in order with his 13th and 14th strikeouts to close out the Braves 1-0 in a two-hit, one-walk complete-game shutout and help the Giants take the first game of their National League Division Series.
Lincecum, nicknamed "The Freak" long ago because of his high velocity, slight frame and unusual mechanics, was asked if he had ever thrown better in a major league game.
"I don't know, that's hard to judge what 'better' would be," he said. "If you come out on top, I think that's good. Shutout, as far as shutouts go, I think that's up there with one of my better ones, if I had to rate it."
If there have been two transcendent stories from the first two days of the baseball postseason, they are a virtuoso pitching performance --
This one had both.
What should have been a night solely dedicated to the celebration of Lincecum's masterpiece of a postseason debut was instead marred by the 2010 playoffs' seemingly requisite umpire controversy.
It was hard to ignore that the Giants' only run was aided by a bad call at second base. As Braves starter Lowe delivered a full-count pitch to
Asked in a postgame news conference whether he was safe on the steal of second, Posey's face scrunched into a grimace, then he allowed, "I guess it's a good thing we don't have instant replay right now." Later he joked, "It was a beautiful slide, wasn't it?"
Speaking to a pool reporter after the game, Emmel, who noted that he had not seen a replay, said, "I saw him safe. That's what I called."
The rest of the night belonged to Lincecum, who rendered the Braves' bats as useless as the Reds', circa one day prior, against Halladay. After allowing a leadoff double to
He struck out
That's right: nine swings, nine strikes, three outs.
In all Lincecum induced 31 swing-and-miss strikes -- just more than a quarter of his 119 pitches -- many of them on high fastballs or low-and-away sliders, the latter a bit of a surprise to the Braves.
"We were informed of it," Lee said of the slider, which he said had a tight spin and stayed down in the zone, "but I've never seen him throw it like that."
Even though Lincecum's fastball velocity has declined a few miles per hour -- his average fastball registered about 94 mph in 2007 and '08 but only 91 this season -- he placed it well with great late movement.
"What he does is he keeps that fastball just above the belt so you have to work hard to keep on top of it," Lee said. "That's why you see a lot of foul balls off his fastball."
Lincecum persevered through a rough August in which he lost all five of his starts and registered a 7.82 ERA. After the game, he was asked if it was hard to believe that month had even happened, given how well he has right the ship.
"Yeah, time and time again, guys tell me that guys go through struggles, [and say], 'Timmy, you're human,'" he said, that last part with a dismissive shrug, and it was hard to argue with his implied otherworldly standards.
That the second-inning strikeout victims, the Braves' 5-6-7 hitters, consisted of
It was easy to forget how well his opponents threw the ball, and
"It's kind of hard right now," said Infante, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. "I haven't played there [much] in a while, but I'm going to work harder tomorrow to adapt."
Completing the Braves' blunders on the day was a batting practice mishap in which Game 2 starter
A tough matchup awaits him tomorrow, less so with the Giants' lineup, which managed to score only one questionable run, and more so with San Francisco starter