Lincecum in vintage form against Dodgers
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Bruce Bochy said that Tim Lincecum had "a lot of confidence and swagger right now," that wasn't a clip from the archives. The Giants' manager made that remark Wednesday, on a glorious night for the Giants.
They watched Lincecum awaken echoes of the past, albeit without his once-dazzling fastball, as he allowed three hits in seven innings to hasten the Giants' second straight shutout of the Dodgers, this time by a 4-0 score.
Lincecum's results recalled his prodigious accomplishments of yesteryear. He won his fourth consecutive game at home, a streak he last sustained from July 4-Aug. 1, 2009. That happened to be the second year of Lincecum's two-year reign as National League Cy Young Award winner. Lincecum also lengthened his streak of consecutive scoreless innings at AT&T Park to 22, helping him reduce his overall ERA to 2.08. That's his lowest figure after eight starts since 2010 (1.76).
But, as most observers realize by now, Lincecum relies more on location and guile and less on sheer, overpowering stuff. Having weathered the trials of the previous three seasons, when he compiled a 32-38 record and a 4.76 ERA, Lincecum has remained calm throughout his renaissance. He's happy, but he's also resisting the temptation to get carried away.
"I relied on stuff back in the day, and now I'm trying to pitch my way through games," said Lincecum (4-2). "The evolution of the last few years has been pretty rocky, so I'm taking what I've got going right now as a definite plus."
Told of Bochy's comment, Lincecum acknowledged that "you have to trust your stuff" -- something that's easier for him at home, where he's 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts this season. Elsewhere, he's 0-1 with a 4.02 ERA in three outings.
That disparity notwithstanding, Lincecum is approaching the consistency that has eluded him in recent seasons. Bochy explained the right-hander's surge in simple terms: "Not to cliche this, but you have to keep the ball down and hit your spots," adding that Lincecum is gaining enough self-assurance to throw any pitch at any time.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, who supported Lincecum by going 3-for-4 and driving in the game's first run with a sixth-inning single, also used the "C" word to describe his teammate.
"He looks confident with all of his pitches right now," Crawford said. "He's locating his fastball better and keeping his offspeed [pitches] down. When he does that, he's tough to beat."
Andrew Susac, who caught Lincecum on Wednesday while Buster Posey occupied first base, also praised Lincecum's pitching versatility.
"A lot of the guys are sitting offspeed on him, so it's good when he's commanding his fastball," Susac said.
Lincecum struck out only four, but that was enough to vault him past Hall of Fame left-hander Carl Hubbell for sole possession of fourth place on the Giants' all-time franchise list with 1,680.
For a fleeting moment, the Lincecum of bygone days emerged as he discussed this feat. Referring to his diminished strikeout rate -- a personal low of 6.9 K/9 -- Lincecum said, "I'm still trying to do that better."