Banished to the bullpen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner has become baseball’s most distinguished middle reliever.
His dark, stringy hair flopping onto his shoulders, Tim Lincecum was the ace of the staff when the Giants won the World Series two years ago for the first time since 1954.
Following his surprising season-long slump, San Francisco dropped Lincecum from its World Series rotation. Given the chance to pitch in relief, he threw 2 hitless innings Saturday night in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers that moved the Giants into a 3-0 lead.
The former University of Washington standout has pitched 42/3 innings of hitless ball against the Tigers, striking out eight. He’s faced 16 batters and just two have reached base, on a walk and an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford.
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“It is a little tough,” Lincecum said before the Series began, “but I mean it’s just all about being prepared for that next day or when you could get your name called.”
Known for his high leg kick and unorthodox delivery, the diminutive Lincecum has simplified his mechanics during the postseason, jettisoning his windup and going solely from the stretch — even with no runners on base.
“It allows me to just think about one thing, and that’s sight of the target,” he said. “At times it can still get away for me and I can still think about the wrong things. But most of the times it works.”
After winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2009 and ’10, he slumped to 13-14 in 2011 and 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA this year, the highest among qualifying NL starters.
He lost his only postseason start, in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series against St. Louis, but he’s allowed one run and three hits in 13 innings of relief over five outings for a 0.69 ERA.
When he was relegated to the bullpen by manager Bruce Bochy, Lincecum said he didn’t take it as a demotion. He just looked at it as a different way to help the team.
“I think we’re all enjoying this right now,” Lincecum said moments after the final out Saturday. “We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
READY TO GO
Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer and San Francisco righty Matt Cain didn’t need to know the outcome of Saturday’s World Series game to understand that when they take the mound today the stakes will be high.
Both starters couldn’t wait to take advantage of an opportunity to give their team a much-needed — or must-have victory — tonight in Game 4.
“I absolutely relish it,” Scherzer said. “This is the start of a lifetime to be able to pitch in the World Series.”
The Giants took a 2-0 lead in the seven-game series into Game 3 on Saturday night.
“You try to trick yourself into thinking it’s another game, but you know what’s going on,” Cain said. “Your mind and your body, they know it’s going to be a big game in the World Series, whether we’re up 3-0 or 2-1.”
Bud Selig gave Miguel Cabrera with an actual crown Saturday, recognizing the Triple Crown he won this season, and announced that the Tigers slugger won the AL’s Hank Aaron Award.
For the first time, both winners of the award that recognizes the top offensive players in each league were getting ready to play in the same World Series.
After Cabrera posed for pictures and made a statement, he went to get ready for Game 3. Moments later, Giants catcher Buster Posey was honored for being the NL’s Hank Aaron Award winner.