Lincecum goes long in playoff debut with win

Rested and ready to defend their California League title, the San Jose Giants took the challenge from the Visalia Oaks and turned the afternoon in their favor. Tim Lincecum's brilliance spotlighted the game, while the men behind and after him secured the win with clutch hitting and solid performances out of the bullpen.

Tim Lincecum was bound for big things from the moment the Giants chose him as their first round pick in the June amateur baseball draft. His latest test was to start game one of the divisional playoff series against a very tough Visalia ball club.

The team had struggled through the first months of the season but barely outplayed San Jose to capture the second-half division crown. They scraped to get here from the month of April, and they scraped against the Stockton Ports in the three-game mini-series to determine who San Jose would face in the divisional series.

Stockton pushed their collective backs to the wall by winning game one of the series and taking a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning in the deciding game three. Visalia scored six runs to win that game, and while the victory was well-earned they had to drag into San Jose for a game only a half-day after the mini-series clincher.

Lincecum earned the right to start the opening game of the series with his outstanding work with San Jose. In the few weeks he’s been with the club he’s been almost untouchable; 2-0, 1.95 earned run average. While others on the staff were as worthy to get the ball for this start, Lincecum’s stuff and poise set the tone during the season, and he was the right man for the job Saturday afternoon.

He allowed one run on five hits over seven innings pitched. He was finally taken off his leash and he responded with velocity consistently in the mid-90s, racking up ten strikeouts.

The Giants scored three runs to support their starting pitcher. They were down 1-0, but not for long. Tim Hutting doubled in the third inning, and went to third on Alex Requena’s bunt base hit. Pat Dobson was a leader on the 2005 title-winning team and here again he stepped up. He tied the game with an RBI single to score Hutting.

Will Thompson walked with two outs in the fourth and scored when Steve Holm hit a double to left. Requena generated offense with his speed once more in the fifth inning. His leadoff hit to left set him up to fly around the bases, and he ended up at third. He scored on Dobson’s groundout to push San Jose’s lead to 3-1.

When things got shaky around Lincecum, he remained in control. The one run charged to his record came in the second inning. Josh Asanovich hit a pitch deep to right field that John Bowker misplayed, allowing Asanovich to get to third base. Patrick Cottrell picked up the RBI with a base hit. The lapse in defense on Asanovich’s hit was the only problem Lincecum’s fielders had.

The home plate umpire was unpopular among hitters from both clubs. Some voiced disagreement with strike calls, and Carlos Sosa took umbrage enough to get ejected in the second inning. The loss of one of their key hitters made San Jose’s defense shuffle a bit, but the defense complimented Lincecum’s pitching to get the right-hander out of trouble when he needed it.

Lincecum allowed leadoff hits in the fourth and sixth innings and each threat was erased by the sure hands behind him. When he had to fix his mistakes on his own, he did fine. Lincecum had strike three to end the seventh inning, but the pitch went wild. Catcher Steve Holm threw wide to first and allowed Christian Lopez to get to second. Hunter Vick then walked. Lincecum victimized Fernando Perez four times on strikeouts in the game. Perhaps his most important strikeout was getting Perez to swing through a pitch to for the last out of the seventh inning.

The bullpen has contributed much to the Giants’ run to the postseason, and two of the best followed Lincecum to finish the win. Justin Hedrick went 1-2-3 in the eighth inning, then gave way to Brian Anderson to close it out.

To say Anderson has been automatic is an understatement. He broke the Cal League record for saves with 37, and any team hoping to beat the Giants has to go through him. He allowed a run to score on back-to-back hits with two outs, but struck out pinch hitter Josh Arhart to complete the 3-2 win.

Darren Sack will oppose Visalia left-hander Brian Mann in game two of the series. It begins Sunday at 5pm at San Jose Municipal Stadium.



Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to seasond_salt@yahoo.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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