It never comes easy for the San Francisco Giants. Not even on the heels of one of the greatest postseason performances from the bump in franchise history.
Fresh off their first NL West title in seven years, the Giants sent ace pitcher and two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to the mound for Game 1 of the NLDS against the depleted Atlanta Braves. At AT&T Park, Lincecum was all kinds of dominant, throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout. In the process, he recorded a franchise record 14 strikeouts – at one point, he sat down five consecutive batters.
However, the game was not without its drama. “Big Time Timmy Jim” needed all 119 pitches and 75 strikes to take down the Braves in Game 1, eking out a 1-0 victory. Both of the hits Lincecum gave up were doubles, twice giving Atlanta a chance to score with one swing of the bat. The Giants were one hanging curveball away from losing a hard-fought game. Luckily, that curveball never came from Lincecum’s steady arm.
The only run in the game, ironically, was produced from a blown call for a stolen base. In the 4th inning, rookie phenom Buster Posey attempted to steal second, and was shown to be out by at least 6 inches. The umpire, however, called him safe, setting up Cody Ross’ RBI single. While it was the only run Lincecum needed, some could argue that run should never have happened. Then there was the maddening 1-for-8 the Giants hit with runners in scoring position, with six runners left on base. The bottom line is, the win did not come easy.
But, then again, what else is new for the Giants this year? If I were to tell you six weeks ago that the Giants would not only make a run in October, but throw Lincecum in Game 1 of a playoff series, and win on a 14-K performance, I’m not sure many of you would believe me. Hell, I wouldn’t believe me – at the time, Lincecum couldn’t buy a win, with an 0-5 record and a 7.82 ERA.
As a whole, these Giants are hard to figure out, especially on offense. It’s not like they don’t have weapons that know how to hit in big games – Posey, Huff, Torres and Sandoval come to mind. But, as I followed them through the season, their offensive production would be so unpredictable: 6 runs in a win, one day, 1 run in a loss, the next. Somehow, it never failed.
Then, there was their pitching. While everything seems to be coming together now, it was never certain what kind of pitcher we would see on the mound on any given day. Bumgarner would pitch brilliantly one game, and Cain would get rocked for 5 runs in the first inning the next day. Lincecum pitches a shutout; Sanchez gets blown up for 8 runs the next day.
Don’t get me wrong – I was at the edge of my seat, watching the game with 100 other raucous fans at my local sports bar, the Davis Graduate, last night. The place exploded with every brilliant slider Lincecum threw last night. But, for every K the crowd cheered for, there was an equally present boo or groan from the crowd when Torres or Sandoval hit into a double play with RISP. Up to the 9th inning, my heart was in my throat, knowing that all the Braves needed was one pitch to tie things up. Like I said, though – that pitch, thankfully, never came.
But, knowing the nature of these Giants, it easily could have. I’m not calling them the “new Cardiac Kids” for nothing, you know.