May 27, 2017 03:00 AM PST
SINCE 2007

Moving on a groove

Gameplan

If there ever was a game that personified what San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, a Filipino-American from the Great Northwest, has gone through the past few years, it had to be when he toed the mound last Friday evening at new Yankee Stadium.

Before getting into the details of the outing, let’s quickly rundown some of the storylines the three-time strikeout king faced heading into the start:



*It was the premiere appearance for Lincecum, a soon-to-be free agent, at the Yankees’ new digs in the Bronx.

*Five years back, Tim was in the midst of his first full season with the Giants. On the strength of an 11-2 record and 2.57 ERA, “The Freak” had been named the starting pitcher for the National League in the 79th All-Star Game. For whatever reason, some say it was a bug -- others claim he was sick from a night of partying, Lincecum became ill on the Tuesday morning of the midseason classic and had to be rushed to the Hospital, thereby missing the 15-inning contest eventually won by the American League 4-3.

*It was the second-to-last scheduled start to the 2013 regular season, one in which the four-time All-Star entered the game with a 10-13 record, a 4.40 ERA but had won an impressive four out of his five previous turns in the rotation.

*Since this year’s All-Star break, the short-haired 5-foot-11, 160-pounder had seemingly righted the ship. This was in his own words thanks in large part to of all people, a fifth starter, staff-mate Chad Gaudin, whose emphasis in studying hitters somehow rubbed off on the 29-year-older with two World Series Championships.

“I feel like I’m still trying to get a grasp on this new, I guess, me,” he was quoted saying in Thursday’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m learning the hitters better and trying to be a little more efficient, studying them and exploiting them as much as I can. It’s still a learning process. It’s exciting just to look at it that way. This isn’t just an end-all. This isn’t as good as it’s going to get. It’s going to get a lot better.”

*As a result of this sudden dedication to studying his craft, the slight-framed kid with a big chip on his shoulder who showed up and played during Barry Bonds’ final season with the Giants, pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on July 13. It was vintage stuff, even away from AT&T Park, with the four walks and 148 pitches thrown, and without the 95-mile-an-hour heater. Guile and all, Lincecum fanned 13 batters in total and became the 15th pitcher in franchise history to accomplish the hitless feat.

All of these elements, along with the momentum buildup, made for a more than interesting subplot, so back to Friday’s performance against the team in pinstripes:

To open up the bottom of the second inning, the two-time Cy Young Award-winner threw a fastball at the corner of the plate to right handed batter Alfonso Soriano. Down 0-2 in the count, the Yankees outfielder waited patiently, swung smoothly and hit what appeared to be a routine fly-out to right field. It turned out to be much more than that, a line-drive homer over the head of Hunter Pence (the same guy who saved his no-no with an incredible diving catch to end the eighth inning) and into the stands where a Yankees fan caught the ball in the air.

After the knock to the short porch in right, which tied the game at one apiece, the cameras showed Tim with a look of incredulity. It was a classic sight to see and made any baseball fan with thoughts that New York might be his next destination strongly reconsider the notion. After the homer, he reached a pretty cool milestone, notching the 1,500 strikeout of his career (becoming the third pitcher in history to do so in seven seasons, joining fellow righties Tom Seaver and Bert Blyleven) with his fan of Curtis Granderson. Strangely enough, the ball was rolled into the Yankees dugout. Let’s hope that the ball found its way to Mike Murphy.

From then until the seventh inning, the Pinoy pitched superbly, limiting the Yankees lineup to the one run. He competed in a pitcher’s duel with Vallejo-native CC Sabathia.

During the seventh, Lincecum encountered a few tough breaks, mainly a fielding lapse on the right side of the infield due to a tweaked hamstring by second baseman Joaquin Arias (Brandon Belt didn’t make a play on the grounder between the two), a hit batsman (Lyle Overbay) then a potential double play that couldn’t be turned by Pablo Sandoval at third.

With runners on second and third, Lincecum walked Ichiro Suzuki to load em up and bring out skipper Bruce Bochy, who promptly or not-so-promptly, depending upon your view, removed him for setup guy George Kontos. With the bases jammed, the reliever had a 2-1 count on the league’s most embattled player of the year third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who swung sweetly at a down-and-away fastball to knock it over the right field fence and procure the 24th Grand Slam of his career. The homer broke the all-time record he had been sharing with “The Iron Horse,” the great Lou Gehrig.

Thursday night’s start versus the playoff-bound Los Angeles Dodgers could be the final one for Tim as a Giant. Tune in early to catch all the rhetoric about a potential send-off. Who knows? Maybe he’s saving the best for last and will hit his first career home run to cap off his long, strange, but ever-so memorable trip in orange and black.

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