By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
Following the performances in the NLDS by the Giants’ regular season starting rotation—Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito, and Tim Lincecum—there are questions about who will complete the rotation for the NLCS. Lincecum, used as a relief pitcher throughout the series, was masterful. He came through when the starters that were chosen over him could not get deep into the game.
Anticipating the four-man rotation, who would be the odd man out?
None of the starters were able to go past five innings in their first start of the series (Cain was able to go 5.2 innings in Game 5, his second start), but it was Zito who pitched the least amount of innings. After the completion of the Cardinals-Nationals game, the Giants announced that Bumgarner would start Game 1 and Vogelsong would start Game 2. Though not officially announced, it’s safe to say Cain would start Game 3 (since his last start was on Thursday).
“The reason we named the first two is because we felt we had to,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I think you’re fair in mentioning Cain likely for Game 3. As far as Game 4, we’ll wait to announce that.”
So who will be the fourth starter?
On Saturday, Bochy revealed that for Games 1 and 2 Lincecum will be available out of the bullpen, indicating that if the Giants get into a bind, Zito will be the fourth starter. But he is quick to emphasize that there is no definite starters beyond Games 1 and 2, restating that everyone, not just Lincecum, can be used if need be.
“Again, we talked about this in the first series,” Bochy said. “They’re all available. The first game or second game here at home and we’ll see how it goes and then we’ll name Game 4.”
Zito lasted only 2.2 innings and allowed two runs on four hits in Game 4, while it was Lincecum who came in and pitched 4.1 innings, only allowing one run on two hits.
It makes sense to send Zito to the bullpen and bring Lincecum in to start, but is having the Freak as an emergency backup starter worth making that controversial decision?
It worked in the NLDS. Lincecum came in and made an impact in two games.
“Timmy threw the ball great,” Bochy added. “Zito, he was a little bit off, but not bad. He ended up throwing a lot of pitches. But at this point we’re just going to wait until we get to St. Louis before we name those starters.”
Rather than dwell on what could be on Thursday, the Giants focus on Sunday’s game and what needs to be done.
Bumgarner, starter of Game 1, pitched 13.1 innings against the Cardinals in the regular season, giving up 7 runs on 10 hits, ending up with a 4.73 ERA against the team. His ERA for the month of September was his highest of the season at 5.47 as he went 2-2. In his last start, Game 2 of the NLDS, Bumgarner went 4.1 innings in which the Reds scored 4 runs on 7 hits.
“You know, I felt good last time, just things didn’t go my way,” Bumgarner said on Saturday. “That’s the way this game is. Just got to go out there and be focused and be at the top of your game and make pitches. You can’t get caught up in what’s happening, you’ve got to focus on the next pitch and just keep moving forward.”
Bumgarner and the Giants move forward on Sunday at 5:00 PM PT as they start Game 1 of the NLCS with hopes to become World Series Champions once again.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.