Sadly...not yours truly...and I need redemption for my slacking this week...two of five blogs published eight hours late...Slacker City...
Tonight I watched the San Francisco Giants game from AT&T Park versus the Houston Astros. As is my wont, I was playing Twitter and Facebook while I watched the game. Usually these social websites are a rollicking snark-fest of trash talking when the Giants win, with hyperbole and commiseration when things don't go the Giants way.
Tonight there was a difference in the air...the vibe...the volume...the traffic was subdued...staid even...very atypical given the venue...
There was a reason for the unusually unsocial behavior on the social sites...we were all collectively holding our breath for our Ace pitcher, two time Cy Young Award Winning, four time All Star right hander, Tim Lincecum. Nicknamed "The Freak" a tip of the hat to his long hair and slight build, Lincecum looks like a skinny dustbowl kid in a Diane Arbus photograph, but armed with fearsome pitches and a competitive fire that burns white hot. Lincecum's tall skinny visage is something to see as he delivers a pitch with his unconventional motion.
Lincecum has gone from Giants Ace to the worst pitcher currently active in the Major Leagues in the first half of this season. Opinions vary wildly on just what Timmy's problem is on the mound. He's had control issues, he's lost a little speed with his fastball...from 97mph to 93mph.
This loss of speed wouldn't be a problem if he was putting the ball where he wanted, but he's been unable to keep his pitches down in the bottom third of the strike zone, and too often he "hung" a breaking ball out over the plate where Major League hitters were teeing off on them like kids playing in the town T-Ball League.
Lincecum's last two starts on the road were shockers for the struggling right hander, and for Giants fans. Against the Washington Nationals he threw only 3 1/3 innings and gave up seven runs on nine hits. His next start in Pittsburgh wasn't much better...3 1/3 innings six runs on seven hits.
In the other troubling games, Lincecum had trouble early, especially pitching from the stretch, but found his groove and dominated opposing hitters like he does at his best...but the last two starts shook even the most faithful. One could only imagine what Tim himself was thinking and feeling!
So it was against this backstory that fans were watching and hoping for the best. Somehow The Freak was his old self, bedeviling batters like his glory days. Lincecum made a quality start of 8 innings pitched, allowing 5 hits, no runs, no errors, he walked two and struck out eleven!
AT&T Park was electric from the get go...a playoff atmosphere as they say. Timmy got a standing O from the fans behind the Giants dugout after he retired the Astros 1-2-3 in the 1st inning! At the end of the 8th the cheers were deafening as Lincecum triumphantly returned to the dugout for the final time with the Giants ahead 2-0
The Giants bullpen set out to finish off the Astros in the 9th. Houston scored a run and put two base runners on before getting to two outs and two strikes. The crowd was roaring as Giants' closer Santiago Casilla threw the final strike which the batter swung at and missed!
The ball caromed off of catcher Héctor Sánchez and bounced towards third base as the batter broke for first. Sánchez got to the ball, turned to throw out the batter, but hurried his throw and pulled first baseman Brandon Belt off the bag, allowing the runner from third base to score when shell shocked Casilla forgot to cover home plate in the melee...game tied!
The Park went silent...Lincecum's redeeming masterpiece was now in jeopardy, and Lincecums Win was now a No Decision. All 42,171 attendees felt like they took a Mohammed Ali body punch...group despair isn't pretty...
The game went 12 innings. The Giants makeshift bullpen rose to the occasion. Héctor Sánchez got the walkoff single that won the game for the Giants, redeeming himself for the blown throw that tied the game.
So the theme of the game was redemption squared...just a few minutes before the Giants pulled it out, at Dodgers Stadium the San Diego Padres stole home, and a wild throw allowed the second run to score defeating the Dodgers and giving the Giants the lead in the NL West!
Of all professional sports baseball is the most Human...baseball at times is like Greek Mythology, Fairy Tales, Biblical Passion Plays, or Aesop's Fables. Depending on the day, baseball can be like Great Literature or Pulp Fiction...but it is never without the human element...there's a life lesson in umpire's bad calls as well as in perfect pitches. Baseball...Always changing...Always the same...redeeming or heartbreaking, sometimes surprising...it can seem slow, but it's never boring.