Every Start Was A Party
Back in 2007 my baseball watching habits were a bit different. I didn’t have MLB.tv or an extra innings package to watch the games on cable. I was still reliant on those times that the Giants played on ESPN to get my fill of the team that I love. I was almost out of the dark ages, but not quite yet.
The Giants hadn’t been winning and the Barry Bonds story had been played out for me. I never expected that the complete opposite type of guy would grab hold of the fan base and set the tone for future World Champion clubs. Tim Lincecum didn’t just come in as a great young phenom, he turned a culture on its ear.
With the home park geared towards pitching, the Giants finally had their breakout star on the mound. Yes Matt Cain had joined the big club earlier, but Timmy pushed to it to new levels. It wasn’t just that he was effective, it was how it all came together.
Timmy is 5’11” according to Baseball Reference. It also says he weighs 170 lbs. He might weigh that much now, but I don’t think he did back then. Basically, he looks like the scrawny kid that could barely play right field growing up. But he equalized that. With a windup that earned him the nickname of “Freak”. Because of that long stride of his, it’s all arms and legs to a hitter. Timmy has a lot of moving parts that have to come together for him to be successful.
He put all those parts together and took the league by storm. He put his stamp on the organization with back to back CY Young awards. Timmy won his first in 2008, which was his first full season as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.
I missed most of this. As a fan that has always lived somewhere other than my beloved Giants, it has always been hard for me to watch the games. Sure I saw Timmy pitch here and there. But I never really experienced it day after day. I also think that’s what made my love for Timmy so special.
I could feel through the screen on those days Timmy pitched how much the crowd loved him. That’s why I have always called him a “Rock Star”. When I knew Timmy would be pitching an ESPN game it became must watch. He gave us a reason to celebrate great pitching again. The Giants didn’t have much offense in 2008 or 2009, but any day Timmy was pitching it always felt like they had a chance.
Part of the beauty about Mr. Lincecum is how unassuming he really is. I think that’s why fans connect with him so much. He’s almost reluctant to have praise and attention. Timmy goes about his business the way many of us feel we conduct ourselves in day-to-day life. He’s the kid brother that always has a bit of a smirk on his face.
Two In Three Years
In 2010 Timmy’s role on the organization took full effect and he was right in the middle of it. This was also the first season that I had invested in a baseball package to watch the games. Finally, after 2 seasons of tremendous pitching, I would get to see Timmy every few days. He did not disappoint.
I missed most of Timmy’s earlier accomplishments, but I would no more. Opening day 2010 was in Houston. Timmy threw 7 innings of shutout ball and struck out 7. He didn’t walk anyone. The Giants won the game 5-2 and the tone for the season was set. He showed right off the bat that the pitchers were ready to take the Giants to the next step.
When the 2010 playoffs got started I was as unsure as anyone if the Giants could actually compete for the ring. With his Game 1 performance, Timmy quieted any fears. He pitched what I will always consider, his greatest game as a Giant. It wasn’t just that he threw a 2 hit shutout. He did it so dominantly. The Braves struck out 14 times. The Giants only scored 1 run. But all along we knew it would be enough for Timmy. He was just brilliant.
Living near Philadelphia as the NLCS got started was interesting. All I heard about was how great Roy Halladay was. I just kept telling them to wait until they saw Timmy pitch. Thankfully he backed me up in Game 1 of that series. Lincecum threw 7 innings and allowed 3 runs. He kept a heavy hitting Phillies lineup in check. Even when they did damage, it was minimal. Timmy finished off the night with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Game 5 of the 2010 World Series put Tim Lincecum into “Legend” status forever. Facing a tough Texas team, with the championship on the line, he delivered. Timmy pitched 8 innings only allowing 3 hits and a single run. He struck out 10 hitters. Frankly, none of us would have been shocked if he came out to close it in the 9th. Turns out he didn’t, but the celebration after was so sweet.
The camera shot of Timmy at the top of the pile raising his arm in the air is iconic. It will be burned in my memory forever, as I am sure it is yours. The sense of it all, and Timmy being a big reason why they were there, is all encapsulated in that picture.
Now we all know Timmy has had his struggles since then. His 2012 season was so bad that Bochy had to pull him from the rotation. So how did he respond? By becoming the biggest threat out of the Giants bullpen for the playoffs. They needed him too. Suddenly the guy that we could depend on as a starter, was the stopper in the bullpen.
In Game 4 of the NLDS he threw 4.1 innings and only allowed 1 run. In fact watching him that day, was like watching the Timmy of old. You just knew he would go get the job done. That’s what he did for the rest of the playoffs too. He took his role in the bullpen with a smile on his face. It made us fall in love with him all over again.
Timmy was a presence in the World Series again without starting a game. In Game 1 he bridged the gap from Barry Zito, to the 9th inning. In Game 3 Timmy combined with Ryan Voglesong and Sergio Romo to shut out the Tigers. Both games he threw 2.1 innings. He struck out 8 combined and only allowed a walk. That’s it, no hits. He was just as much of a key to the sweep as anyone else.
A Lifetime Of Memories
Timmy has won 2 Cy Young awards, 2 World Series titles, and been named the Babe Ruth Award winner as the MVP of the entire 2010 postseason. That’s all well and good, but 2013 turned in to my favorite Lincecum season. I know he didn’t have the best season, but there were moments for me that stood out on a personal level.
July 13, 2013 was an amazing night for Giants fans everywhere. The one thing that Timmy didn’t have on his highlight reel was a no-hitter. On a Saturday night right before the All Star Break he did just that. If there was a park for him to do it, San Diego’s Petco Park was perfect. Over the past few years Giants fans have turned it into “AT&T South”, and the crowd was heavily favored for the Giants that night.
I’ll never forget that feeling in the middle innings that Bochy might take him out. All over Twitter we were worried that he may not get the chance to finish. But Timmy went strong and retired 9 of the last 10 batters he faced. Hunter Pence chipped in with a diving, rolling stab of a line drive to end the 8th inning. The crowd was electric, as were the Giants players as the fielders arrived in the dugout.
A pop fly to Gregor Blanco in left field and Timmy had his no-hitter. After 148 pitches he was raised triumphantly in the air in what is now known as a “Buster Hug”. It was a beautiful scene on the screen as I dropped to my knees in my living room to cheer the achievement. That would have been enough for me from Timmy in 2013, but my luck just got better.
In early August of this year the Giants were down here in my neck of the woods. I now live in Tampa and watch the Rays quite often. I had been writing my own blog for a while now and it was usually about the Giants. So through the magic of Twitter, and the Director of Social Media for the Giants Bryan Srabian, I was able to secure a press pass for the August 3rd game at the Tropicana Dome. Wouldn’t you know it, that was the night Tim Lincecum was to pitch against David Price.
I hadn’t even been to a Giants game in person since September of 2006, and here I was getting a press pass to see Timmy in person. Being my first press experience overall, it just added to the coolness of the day. Before the game I was in the dugout and many of the players were around. I got to see Timmy up close and realize that even I am bigger than he is. That’s still part of what amazes me about him.
Timmy didn’t disappoint me either. He wasn’t the dominant strikeout machine of the past. In 7 innings he only struck out 5 Rays hitters. He walked 1, and only allowed 1 run. It was a pitcher’s duel between him and Price and I had a prime seat above the field at the Trop. It was the first time I had seen that windup of Timmy’s up close, and I soaked up every minute of it. What a thrill it was to have him pitch that night.
Later in August of this past season I made my way to San Francisco for the first time. Again I was granted a press pass. It was another Saturday night, 3 weeks after the first experience. So, the first Giants home game I ever saw was from the press box. Who happens to be starting that night? Of course it was Tim Lincecum. Could it have happened any other way?
Timmy pitched a good game, but not a great one. The Giants didn’t need it. They scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st to give him the early cushion. It was also the first time I had ever seen the Giants bat in the home half of the inning. I was rewarded with 4 runs and the entire order got to bat that inning.
The good times and good vibes that emanate from a Timmy start were felt throughout the ballpark. I was simply amazed at how the crowd responded to him personally when he was taken out in the top of the 6th inning. It wasn’t a deep outing, or even a brilliant one, but the crowd stood on their feet and roared approval for our favorite little guy. I got chills throughout my whole body.
The Giants went on to win that game. In fact it is the last win that Timmy has at home. In 2013 he gave this particular fan a whole lifetime of memories.
I don’t know if Timmy will come back next season. I would love to see it happen. I think the 2012 playoffs opened a window in to what kind of pitcher he can be in the future. That may not be the road he takes. He may want to start for a while and have no intention of transitioning to the ‘pen. That’s ok.
If he remains a Giant I will continue to root hard and cheer for the man who helped turn the franchise around. If he moves on, I have no hard feelings. It’s not ideal, but I would wish him luck on his way and say “Thanks for the memories”. He’s already had a great opening act, I hope that when the curtain comes down on his career he is still in a Giants uniform.