ST. LOUIS — It wasn’t until after the events of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series unfolded that the San Francisco Giants were ready to reveal the identity of their starting pitcher for today’s Game 4.
The moment had a Richard Dawson “Family Feud” aspect to it – and the survey said: Tim Lincecum.
“He’s the guy we want out there,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s been throwing the ball well. This is a tough loss tonight ... but we’ve got to bounce back. It’s good to have a guy like Timmy starting for us.”
Bochy wasn’t trying to be dramatic with his postgame revelation, just trying to be thorough.
He had a variety of factors to consider before making the call. Some had to do with the events of Game 3, some reflected the ambiguous character of the candidates – Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito or Lincecum, a star at Liberty High School of Renton and the University of Washington.
Each teased Bochy with favorable properties. Each confounded the decision with surgeon general-style warnings.
Lincecum won consecutive NL Cy Young awards in 2008-09. From 2008 through 2011, the mop-top right-hander won 62 games for the Giants and struck out 977 batters.
This season has been different. The 28-year-old finished the schedule 10-15 with a 5.18 earned-run average, the highest among qualifying pitchers in the NL.
He led the league in losses, runs allowed (111), earned runs (107), wild pitches (17) and was second in walks (90).
Lincecum stabilized with a 4-1 record, 36 strikeouts and a 2.78 ERA in six outings during August and September. But his past two starts were regressive. In 10 innings, he allowed 15 baserunners and 12 runs.
Then again, in nine career postseason appearances, he is 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA, numbers that include two appearances in these playoffs. He came out of the bullpen twice against Cincinnati, allowed one run in 6 innings and picked up a win.
Against the Cardinals, Lincecum has a career 5-1 record and a 2.89 ERA. Bochy liked what he saw in the Cincinnati series.
“I think if you look at how he’s pitched ... his mechanics as much as anything,” Bochy said. “He’s been in a good rhythm, good tempo out there. He’s shown a lot of confidence coming out of the bullpen. We asked a lot of him to do what he’s done and he really has done a tremendous job at giving us multiple innings there.”
Bochy said Zito will pitch Game 5.
Zito also has earned a Cy Young, with a 23-5 record at Oakland in 2002.
But crossing the bay in 2007, the lefty has not approached that standard. He led the NL in losses (17) in 2008 and had losing records for five consecutive seasons. But with a 7-0 finish over his last 11 starts, Zito finished the season 15-8.