In may only be September 7th, but Friday night at AT&T Park felt like October baseball as 41,666 screaming fans electrified the ball park and their team as the Giants defeated the Dodgers 5-2, extending their lead in the division to five and a half games.
If that’s not enough good news for Giants fans, it’s how they won that makes it even sweeter.
The Giants beat their arch rivals with clutch hitting, solid defense, and great pitching. Even better news, the starting pitcher was Tim Lincecum (8-14).
Struggling to salvage a horrible year, and winless in his last three starts at home, it was vital that Lincecum give his team a quality start and keep them in the game against a strong Dodger lineup.
Lincecum not only pitched deep into the seventh inning, he showed flashes of the old Timmy, the former ace who won back to back Cy Young awards and led his team to a World Championship.
Striking out seven while only allowing two runs on four hits, Lincecum pitched with confidence especially when the Dodgers had runners in scoring position.
Four times the Dodgers had a runner at second or third base and Lincecum was able to pitch out of it. More impressive, the Dodgers big four, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Andre Ethier went a combined 0-11 against Lincecum.
Getting out of jams was a strength for Lincecum on Friday night, but he was also good at getting himself into them.
Lincecum walked a career high seven batters on Friday night and it amazingly didn’t hurt other than a high pitch count by the seventh inning. With the confidence his manager believes he is now exuding, Lincecum might’ve been allowed to face Matt Kemp with one out in the seventh if he wasn’t at 119 pitches, which clearly made the choice easy for Bruce Bochy.
“He wasn’t missing much, a lot of those pitches,” Bochy said after the game, “he worked pretty hard and his pitch count got up there, but he had a good look about him, like Chicago. Even though he’s walking guys there’s no panic in him, he kept his poise out there and kept pitching.”
The Dodgers also got a good outing out of Josh Beckett, their newly acquired starter from the Boston Red Sox who was making his third start for his new team.
The Giants were forced to play small ball to score their first two runs off of Beckett, eventually knocking him out of the game with two additional runs in the seventh.
The first run came in the third when Brandon Crawford hit a one out single to left field. Lincecum perfectly executed a sacrifice bunt to get Crawford to second and Angel Pagan followed with a clutch two out hit to right field tying the game at one.
The second run came in the bottom of the sixth. After Adam Kennedy hit a two out home run off of Lincecum in the top of the inning, the Giants came right back starting with a leadoff single from Angel Pagan. After stealing second base, Pagan advanced to third on a groundout by Pablo Sandoval.
With two outs, Hunter Pence barely topped a cutter from Beckett, slowly rolling a ball up the third base line that Kennedy couldn’t get a handle on, once again tying the game with a two out hit.
The Giants would put two more on the board the following inning when Marco Scutaro lined a fastball to right field scoring Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford after Bochy had Emmanuel Burriss sacrifie them over to put both in scoring position.
Lincecum talked after the game about how big it was to have the offense pick him throughout the game.
“The team did a great job in a couple innings there where I gave up the lead and they just fought right back that same half inning. For us to come in here and over the sixth, seventh, and eighth and score four runs on a team like this is big for us and at a time when we need it most.”
With the first game of the series going to the Giants, Bochy acknowledged the importance of the good start but talked about putting it away quickly and shifting the focus to tomorrow’s game.
“It’s always good to get the first one. There was a lot of tension on this game and it’s pretty intense out there and both teams played well, but it’s always good to get the first one, no getting around that.” Bochy continued, “Now we have to put this one behind us and be ready to go tomorrow, but I thought this was an important game.”
The next two games of the series will be nationally televised on Fox and ESPN, and with the possibility the Dodgers could fall to seven and a half games out with 22 games to play if they lost both, you can expect a very motivated and aggressive Dodger team over the weekend.
The pitching matchup for tomorrow’s game features Chris Capuano (11-10) vs. Matt Cain (13-5), while Sunday’s game has Clayton Kershaw (12-8) scheduled to face Barry Zito (10-8), game time is 5:00pm Sunday night.