By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
If there’s anything falling into place for the San Francisco Giants right now, it’s their starting pitching.
Throughout the NLDS and into the NLCS the performances by the starting rotation was a definite cause for concern. It wasn’t until Ryan Vogelsong pitched the first quality start of the Giants postseason in Game 2 that things began to look up.
In Game 3 on Wednesday, Matt Cain followed Vogelsong’s performance with a quality outing of his own, going 6.2 innings and allowing 3 runs on 6 hits in the losing effort.
“That was probably the best that I’ve felt. I was locating on both sides of the plate,” Cain said after the game. “It was definitely the best I’ve felt out of the three starts so far.”
Despite Cain’s best game of the postseason, San Francisco’s offense couldn’t capitalize on chances, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
“You know, it’s tough,” Cain said. “We had our chances today, but those guys over there made some good pitches to get us out of it, or to get them out of it, not let us score.”
The bats couldn’t find the answer, but the Giants’ pitching kept the game close.
With the starters staying in the game longer and the bullpen arms controlling the opposition’s production, it kept Tim Lincecum, San Francisco’s in-case-of-emergency bullpen arm of late, out of the game. With Lincecum at rest, it opened the door up for what most were expecting.
Lincecum has been slated to start Game 4.
“Well, he’s the guy we want out there and he’s been throwing the ball well,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. “We have a good one going tomorrow. We’ve got to bounce back. It’s great to have a guy like Timmy all set to go to start for us and we look forward to playing tomorrow.”
While his regular season numbers are less than stellar, Lincecum’s postseason stats coming out of the bullpen are more reflective of the Freak that most are familiar with—he has pitched 8.1 innings, allowed only one run on three hits, putting together a 1.08 ERA.
“I think somebody mentioned that he felt like he’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now, so that’s half the battle,” catcher Buster Posey said. “Hopefully he can carry that over to tomorrow.”
Though Bochy wouldn’t say who would be catching Lincecum, when asked if he expects to catch, Posey said, “I expect, I mean I don’t know if that’s the case or not. Either way, he’ll be fine.”
So now that Game 4 is set, the next question was whether Barry Zito or Madison Bumgarner gets the call for Game 5. After Game 3, Bochy revealed that Zito was their man.
“Zito, he’ll follow him [Lincecum] in the next game,” Bochy said. “So we have Timmy tomorrow and then Barry will start Game 5. They’re all set. They pretty much knew what the plan was, but I held off naming them because, for example, with the rain delay, we could have used Timmy tonight, if that thing goes extra innings and we get low on pitching, Timmy could have pitched. But with not using him, he’s got tomorrow’s game and Z will follow him.”
In Zito’s only postseason outing, he pitched 2.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in his NLDS Game 4 start. Interestingly enough, even when Zito has not pitched deep into a game, the team has won the last 12 games that the lefty has started.
Bumgarner’s postseason has not gone well. In his two starts, he has gone 8.0 innings, giving up 10 runs on 15 hits. In his last outing, he only went 3.2 innings where he allowed 6 runs on 8 hits.
“I think we feel that it’s time to give Madison a little break,” Bochy said. “He’s a young kid, 23. He has been pitching a lot of innings and we feel at this point that we’re better off giving him a little break and going with Z who’s done a nice job for us.”
While the question was Lincecum or Zito, turns out they both will get the opportunity to step and help the team advance to the World Series and Bumgarner will be working out of the ‘pen. Just as we’ve heard the players say plenty of times, Bumgarner echoed the sentiments.
“It’s what’s best for the team right now,” Bumgarner said.