And then the Giants couldn't hit Andrew Cashner.
There are nine circles of Padres baseball. In the outer level, the Giants can't touch a guy throwing 96/97 with good command. Look, it sucks, but it could be worse. You get to the inner circles, and there are 140-pound guys blooping hits and slider-golems getting outs, and all you can do is scream. No, if you have to lose, lose to the guy who should be good. I'm still glad that the Padres don't have Anthony Rizzo, but when Cashner's healthy and pitching well, he's a shrug-your-shoulders pitcher. There's no mystery, no how's he doing that. Hard thrower throws hard, that's how.
Mixing in a hit or two wouldn't have hurt, of course.
On the discouraging spectrum, then, this was to the far left of losses. The Giants have hit for most of the year, so you can't go into woe-is-me 2009 mode just yet. They handled the Padres pretty well in San Francisco, so you can't get fatalistic about how the essence of Padres messed everything up in a close game. And if you're looking for positive developments …
Tim Lincecum! Say, that Tim Lincecum kid didn't mess the bed. For the second game in a row, he looked like a pitcher a team would want in its rotation. There wasn't a lot of good news on Friday, but Lincecum holding his own qualifies. He had ups and downs, struggles with his control and command, and he took the loss. But he was quite alright, even when you adjust for Padres.
That's two straight starts he's made it into the seventh, striking out 15 and walking five in his last 13⅔ innings. Here's where a little optimistic quip should go, a little note to suggest that Lincecum's back for good.
Except he's the same. He's the exact same as he was last year. He's a pitcher with plus pitches who doesn't know where the ball is going a quarter of the time. Sometimes it does what he wants; sometimes it hangs over the plate. Often times, it doesn't go near the plate. This has been going on for a year or two.
The difference is with a play like Angel Pagan's catch in the second inning. Lincecum doesn't get that catch last year. He gets it in 2007, 2008, 2009, etc…, but he doesn't get it in 2012, which is when he really needed it. Every pitcher should expect to escape a jam like that every once in a while. Jerko hit the ball hard, but it was still an out. I wish there were a stat for hard-hit outs, because every anecdotally tuned bone in my body thinks Lincecum would have had a noticeable dearth of them last year. He got one tonight, and it was the difference between seven innings/two earned and four innings/four earned.
That's great. But he's the same pitcher. I'm not sure if it's good news that he really wasn't that bad, or bad news that he stopped being so good. At least we can stop the what's-wrong-with-Tim-Lincecum game. There's no point any more. Not when we can play Scattergories, which is much more fun.
Also more fun than watching a Padres game: playing tic-tac-toe with yourself for six hours. It's Friday night! What are you doing with your life! But when it comes to Padres-infected losses ... could be worse, could be worse.