Lincecum rolls, Belt thunders, Giants win

Thearon W. Henderson

Back in April, there was a game that was perfect to the point of seeming scripted:

But considering the constraints of reality, the ending of Monday night's game against the Diamondbacks was pretty darned close to perfect. Posey ties the game, Andres Torres scores the winning run, and Belt gets the winning hit. That's a triumvirate of good fuzzies, right there. I'll just pretend that Cody Ross was flashing the signs to the Giants bench the whole time, and everything ties together in a neat little package.

Say, that does sound like a fun game. It was a come-from-behind walk-off against a divisional rival, and it seemed a lot more important than it ended up being. Even adjusting for hindsight, it's still one of the better games of the year. But I'm not sure if it would have the same impact now, when we know the Giants aren't making the playoffs.

No, the goals of the season are different. So if you had to script a game in the second half, it would pretty much go like this:

  • Tim Lincecum pitching like a bad, bad man
  • Brandon Belt shutting folks up

That's it, for the most part. Those are the best-case scenarios. You can mix in a Vogelsong re-renaissance, or a dominant Bumgarner if you want. Walk-offs are always nice, as are dingers and come-from-behind wins. But in a lost season, the two most important things to me right now are:

  • Tim Lincecum pitching like a bad, bad man
  • Brandon Belt shutting folks up

There aren't any prospects who will have a realistic shot at a job next year. There aren't any young pitchers working their way into the rotation. It's hard to find anything that will act as optimistic legal tender in the offseason, really. The Giants pretty much know what they have, and I'd wager that next year's team isn't going to be much different than this year's team. So with a team like that, I'm rooting for two things:

  • Tim Lincecum pitching like a bad, bad man
  • Brandon Belt shutting folks up

Well, I'm not looking for a lot of positives for the rest of the year. At least, nothing that you can point to and say, "That. That means something. Mark that down for 2014." Belt's strong August is one of those, but that's about it.

Lincecum's comeback after the setback after the comeback means even more to me, for some reason. If Brian Sabean's explanation was accurate -- that the Giants didn't receive a single trade offer for Lincecum worth responding to, much less engaging at all -- this is the kind of game that makes you thrilled the Giants held onto him.

Imagine Lincecum having this exact start with the Braves tomorrow. I would have rooted for him, of course. But it would have been one of the most bittersweet moments of the past 10 years, if not 20, to see Lincecum rise out of the ashes in a different uniform.

As such, games like Thursday's are something of a best-case scenario. Let's watch Lincecum at his best for maybe one of the last times in a Giants uniform. Or, even better, let him work his way back into the Giants' plans by pitching solidly over the last two months. I'd like him back at the qualifying offer, sure, but even if he doesn't want that, I'm not sure if there are any four- or five-year deals out there for him. The best offer might actually come from the Giants. I've assumed Lincecum was gone for the past year, but what if he has a mini-resurgence? That might make both sides amenable to rekindling the romance.

And is Lincecum really going to leave Hector Sanchez? Looks like the Giants are holding all the cards, suckers.

As long as he's pitching well, there's a much better chance of Lincecum coming back than I would have thought around the All-Star Game. Forget about the Belt stuff for a moment. The best news we can get in a single game is that a pending free agent did well and moved his overall run-prevention numbers into the mediocre zone. It's not as sexy of a best-case scenario as Marco Scutaro bludgeoning the Cardinals for their sins, or Buster Posey grand-slamming Mat Latos, so it sounds boring. But rooting for Lincecum because he's Lincecum, and watching him succeed, is pretty rewarding right now.

Not a lot of baseball is these days.

Star-divide

Brandon Belt shut some folks up, at least temporarily. The constant back-and-forth bickering about Belt is still bizarre, at best. He is pretty okay now. He has potential to get much better. Those two sentences shouldn't be that controversial.

You know he's already in the conversation as one of the five best San Francisco Giants first basemen, right? There's McCovey and Clark, of course. Orlando Cepeda finished six seasons with an OPS+ over 100 in six seasons for them; JT. Snow did it seven times as a Giant. After that ... take a stab at who would come next. Who is the fifth-best first baseman in San Francisco Giants history? Mike Ivie? Mark Carreon?

And Belt's 25. He's the problem? People are weird.

Is it the cleanup spot that's helping Belt? The new grip? Extra time in the cage? Probably nothing more than a streaky player playing streaky, really. But with a few more games like this, the other camp will weaken.

Then we ride over the hill and slay them all.

Star-divide

A list of 10-pitch-or-more leadoff at-bats since 1988:

Yr# Date Batter Opp Pitcher Pit(cnt)Sequence Play Description
1 1988-04-12 Brett Butler CIN Danny Jackson 10 (3-2) Lineout: SS
2 1988-05-24 Brett Butler @NYM Bob Ojeda 11 (3-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Popfly: SS (Deep 3B)
3 1990-05-08 Brett Butler @NYM Sid Fernandez 11 (3-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Walk
4 1992-07-27 Willie McGee LAD Tom Candiotti 10 (3-2) Strikeout Swinging
5 1992-08-19 Willie McGee CHC Frank Castillo 10 (3-2) Walk
6 1994-04-22 Darren Lewis NYM Bobby Jones 10 (3-2) Walk
7 1999-06-26 F.P. Santangelo LAD Carlos Perez 11 (3-2) Walk
8 1999-08-22 Marvin Benard @MIL Cal Eldred 10 (3-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Strikeout Swinging
9 2000-06-11 Marvin Benard SEA Aaron Sele 10 (3-2) Walk
10 2002-05-27 Tsuyoshi Shinjo ARI Brian Anderson 10 (2-2) Popfly: 1B
11 2004-07-09 Ray Durham ARI Randy Johnson 10 (3-2) Walk
12 2004-10-02 Ray Durham @LAD Elmer Dessens 10 (3-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Popfly: 1B
13 2007-05-17 Randy Winn @HOU Roy Oswalt 10 (3-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Groundout: 1B-P (2B-1B)
14 2007-06-09 Dave Roberts OAK Dan Haren 10 (3-2) Groundout: 2B-1B
15 2010-08-07 Andres Torres @ATL Tim Hudson 11 (3-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Strikeout Swinging
16 2010-10-01 Andres Torres SDP Clayton Richard 11 (3-2) Walk
17 2012-06-10 Gregor Blanco TEX Alexi Ogando 10 (2-2) Strikeout Swinging
18 2012-06-19 Gregor Blanco @LAA C.J. Wilson 10 (1-2) *LEADOFF GM*:Foul Popfly: 3B (3B Foul)

Why since 1988? Because Baseball-Reference.com is acting squirrly when I search for 1958. But you get the idea. Marco Scutaro had an 11-pitch at-bat, and he ended it with a single. That's always incredibly exciting, especially when it's at home, with the crowd getting into it.

Here's the weird part: This was the first time since at least before 1988 that a Giants hitter has led off the game with a 10-pitch-or-more at-bat and gotten a hit. It's also the first time they've won one of these games since that Randy Winn performance in 2007.

That's just trivia. Doesn't mean anything. But it's nice to see a leadoff hitter getting on base and working the count again. Those were some dark times.

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    Lincecum rolls, Belt thunders, Giants win
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