Saturday night: Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced Saturday that Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito will both be available to pitch in relief during the first two games of the National League Championships Series against the Cardinals.
The series begins Sunday at 5 p.m.
Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain will start the first three games for San Francisco. The Game 4 starter will be determined based, in part, on how much Lincecum or Zito are needed in relief in the first two games.
Following is the original post regarding the value Lincecum provides the Giants in relief entering the NLCS. — Ted
Giants need Lincecum in bullpen right now
BY TED SILLANPAA
The Giants would be best served to keep Tim Lincecum and use him as often as needed through the first three games of the National League Championship Series. It’s not a matter of whether he deserves a start, but rather a matter of the two-time Cy Young Award winner having incredible value as a relief pitcher right now.
Manager Bruce Bochy used his bullpen masterfully in the National League Division Series. Well, he made the right moves and the pitchers he called upon performed well. Fans point out routinely, when they call for a manager’s head, that Bochy’s tactical skill is only as good as the performance of the pitcher (or position player) he calls upon.
George Kontos was outstanding in the early and middle innings, after being considered in jeopardy of not even being on the NLDS 25-man roster. Lefty Jose Mijares got as big an out as any Giant got all season, pitching to one batter in Game 4 before yielding to Lincecum. The committee of late-inning relievers were brilliant: Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez.
Still, take Lincecum’s 4 1/3 outstanding innings of work in relief in Game 4 and everything that the pen had to offer wouldn’t have been enough. If the aforementioned relievers had to pitch Lincecum’s 4 1/3 pressure-packed innings Wednesday, everything would’ve been different in a gut-wrenching, blood-curdling Game 5. Affeldt or Casilla might’ve been too tired to work Thursday. Mijares might’ve had to stick around to face a righty in Game 4. Who knows?
Even with Lincecum, who is nothing if not durable, the Giants had starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong and Mijares warming up behind Romo in the ninth inning with the tying run on base in Game 5. Linecum pitched about 6 wonderful innings in relief in the NLDS and the Giants still were on the brink of going into survival mode as Romo tired noticeably after being required to throw pitch after pitch after pitch in the ninth.
The rotation would seem set for the first three games of the NLCS, no matter how coy Bochy wants to be right now. Madison Bumgarner will start Game 1. He was a co-No. 1 starter until the final month and while he has struggled more than Matt Cain (who has also struggled), Bumgarner is a far better bet to open the NLCS than is Vogelsong.
And, it’s impossible to imagine the Giants pushing Zito into a Game 2 start – even against the predominantly lefty-swinging Cardinals. Zito struggled in Game 4 against the Reds because he had no command and walked four batters. A pitcher has no edge in a lefty vs. lefty matchup if he can’t throw strikes. Vogelsong throws strikes and will start Game 2.
Cain would, then, get the call on four days rest, in Game 3 and leave Bochy with a decision to make in Game 4.
Zito is value-less as a reliever, but the Giants need all five starting pitchers to play a role in the NLCS. Guillermo Mota has been completely ineffective for too long to be expected to pitch meaningful postseason innings. That leaves Lincecum as, arguably, the most valuable arm in the Giants’ pen.
It’s not that hard to imagine a situation where Bochy uses his bullpen to get to Lincecum in a closer’s role – assuming Lincecum is capable of pitching one inning in back-to-back games. He has strikeout stuff and has proven, even through his difficult season, that he still gets leftys and rightys out.
For now, the Giants are better with Lincecum in the bullpen because he’s pitching exceptionally well in relief on a team that needs him out there.