SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — Tim Lincecum spent all of August trying to figure things out. Come Game 1 of the World Series, it took the Giants ace only a couple of innings to steady himself.
‘The Freak’ found a way while “battling” himself in his most important outing yet, pitching San Francisco past the Texas Rangers 11-7 on Wednesday night.
“You don’t need the added pressure. You just go out there and try to keep yourself collected,” Lincecum said.
When the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner took a ball off his left shin on Vladimir Guerrero’s first-inning RBI single that gave Texas a quick lead, things looked worrisome for the Giants. Lincecum shook that right off, then turned it up a notch.
“It’s what your ace does when he doesn’t have his best stuff,” closer Brian Wilson said. “He finds a way to win.”
As did the offense. So much for the Giants’ hitters not having enough pop to beat Texas on the big stage with postseason star Cliff Lee on the mound. San Francisco gave Lincecum all the support he needed and then some.
With runners on first and third in the opening inning, Nelson Cruz hit a bouncer about 30 feet up the third-base line and 10 feet fair. Lincecum fielded it and ran straight at Michael Young, who scurried back to third. Rather than risk a wild throw when Young got too close to the two people covering, Lincecum held onto the ball to load the bases and didn’t allow a run.
The very next batter, Ian Kinsler, grounded into a double play and he was off the hook.
“A little bit of a brain fart there, not really knowing the situation,” Lincecum said.
Even without his best stuff, Lincecum lasted longer than Lee. The hard-throwing righty allowing four runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings with three strikeouts and two walks in a 93-pitch performance as the Giants were victorious kicking off their first World Series since a runner-up finish in 2002 to the wild-card Angels.
“When you get here and you get to the playoffs, you start to realize it’s not so much about your stats or if you get a hit here,” Lincecum said. “It’s just who comes out on top at the end of the day.”
Mired in a perplexing career-worst, five-start losing streak in August, Lincecum tried everything to get back on track. He even received a pick-me-up text message from departed catcher Bengie Molina, now on the other side of this Series with the Rangers. Molina had an RBI double in the sixth against the pitcher he used to catch and mentor.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the guy I caught. I tried not to think too much,” Molina said. “I just wanted to make him throw pitches.”
While there’s been more hype on the other aces of this postseason — Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay after he no-hit the Reds in the first round, and Lee’s perfect 7-0 career record and 1.26 ERA coming into the World Series opener — Lincecum sure has hung tough in an impressive first October run at age 26.
This is the shaggy-haired guy with the quirky delivery and equally unconventional pregame routine, who only two months ago acknowledged his confidence was shaken and he was “searching” through that uncharacteristic funk. Manager Bruce Bochy and teammates praised the pitcher for getting through it.
Lincecum turned to video and long discussions with pitching coach Dave Righetti, looking to regain the edge that made him one of baseball’s most feared pitchers in recent years despite his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame. He has grown up a lot in the past year, which included an offseason marijuana bust back in his home state of Washington. Lincecum apologized repeatedly and insists that made him better. He has thanked San Francisco’s faithful for sticking by him.
Even in this game Lincecum asked himself if he was going to get through the struggles.
“Is this going to sneak away? Is it not?” he said of his thinking. “Am I going to have time to settle down? Is the team going to score?”
Bochy and head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner ran out to check on Lincecum after Guerrero’s single hit the pitcher’s knee. Another ball also went off the back of his left hamstring on Mitch Moreland’s infield single in the sixth. Bochy, Groeschner and Righetti scurried to the mound and Lincecum stayed in the game. For one more batter is all. Pinch-hitter David Murphy followed with an RBI single and Lincecum’s night was done.
He left to a rousing ovation after giving way to Santiago Casilla. Home run king Barry Bonds was among the sellout crowd of 43,601 after the slugger visited the clubhouse before first pitch. Lincecum happens to dress in Bonds’ former locker.
Lincecum, the new face of the franchise since Bonds’ departure after he broke Hank Aaron’s home run record in 2007, will try to lead the Giants to their first championship since the franchise moved West in 1958.
That’s something Bonds couldn’t do. Or Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda. Mays was ill and missed the game, but McCovey and Cepeda were among those recognized on the field before the game.
“Timmy said he didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept us in the game,” Sanchez said. “Timmy’s been a bulldog and warrior for us all year. It’s not often he doesn’t have his best stuff.”
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