So much for pitching like "a wuss", Tim Lincecum. Wow. That was impressive.
Innings 2 through 6 featured 5 strikeouts, two walks, and no hits. He struck out the side in the first inning after allowing three hits and three runs while walking two. Coco Crisp padded his stolen base total by taking second and then third with impunity. It was a very loud and clear "here we go again" until it wasn't.
Most of the analysis I've read suggests that Tim Lincecum is fine and that he's merely the victim of some bad luck. I submit that Tim Lincecum has been his own worst enemy. The power has been inside him all along. That wuss comment and that whole article discussing the pressure he puts on himself is all the evidence I need to understand that the mental aspect of the game is what needs to be worked out. We're all guilty at times of being too self-critical and it's not difficult to imagine that the physical manifestations of such negativity could affect a pitcher's abilities.
The fastball sat 91-93 like it has for most or all of the season. The breaking and off-speed pitches didn't look any sharper or any more exotic than usual. His command just got better and his luck with the defense improved; but most importantly, his confidence came back. I base this on the fact that he threw splitters in fastball counts and wasn't afraid to throw them in the middle of the plate. He could've fallen apart with the bases loaded in the first, but instead he just flipped a switch and looked like Tim Lincecum.
5 innings do not a turnaround make, but I don't think he had much to turnaround at this point. Let's all just hope like hell that this signals a far more consistent season for the ace going forward.
And then there's the whole matter of the Giants scoring 4 runs in the ninth to win the game.
They hadn't defeated a team's closer for a win since April 26th in Cincinnati versus Sean Marshall. Heck, the Giants hadn't scored against an A's reliever at the Coliseum since Santiago Casilla was on their team! That's just bizarre, but maybe less so when you consider that the A's-Giants matchups since the start of interleague have been baseball entropy. We're maybe five years away from heat death because of them.
Still, the Giants showed their resolve and really did a lot of great things to pull out a win. The first, of course, was scoring 5 runs. They've been remarkably consistent in terms of run-scoring this year. The vaunted league-average offense has been attained and it doesn't feel completely hopeless when they get down a run or two. Of course, it helps that the Giants have some strongly decent hitters to make such an offense possible.
Brandon Belt has reached the level of strongly decent. In fact, he's putting up an above average OBP and playing great defense at first (of course, tonight he made a questionable judgment call at first base that led to a run, but how that impacts our view of his defense is probably best left up for discussion in the comments). He is finally stringing together quality plate appearances, which is a really important factor in the game of Rashomon Bochy tends to play when making the lineup.
You can see why the Giants are hell-bent on getting him to pull more pitches: he doesn't seem to pull the ball at all. But his stabby, opposite field-geared swing is working, and a less obvious focus on pulling the ball seems to have fortified his ability to judge the strike zone. Grant and I have alternated between saying we have no clue what's going on with Belt and we can't say for certain what's going to happen with him in the future, so, let's all just enjoy this great run he's on.
Of course, like Tim Lincecum, this Belt's success has been there all along. The plate discipline, opposite field approach, and defense have been there from the very start. Like Lincecum, I'd say that Belt has either managed to absorb the various pieces of advice and instruction he's received in the last year or he's learned to get out of his own way and do what he does best: be himself.
We caught glimpses of "the real" Tim Lincecum and "the real" Brandon Belt tonight. That was awesome. Dare we hope to see them again, and for longer than a glimpse?