ARLINGTON -- Thirty-nine times this season, from April through November, Tim Lincecum showed up to ballparks across the country intending to pitch. His demeanor rarely changed. Yet on the 39th occasion, Lincecum's Giants teammates noticed, he arrived at Rangers Ballpark acting somewhat differently
"Timmy had that look," catcher Buster Posey said.
"He looked so determined," reliever Sergio Romo said. "He had this look like it wasn't going to go past him."
Lincecum delivered a career-defining performance Monday evening, striking out 10 over eight innings of three-hit, one-run ball in a World Series-clinching victory over the Rangers.
"That's unbelievable," fellow starter Matt Cain said. "He did such a tremendous job."
After Lincecum and Rangers starter Cliff Lee uncharacteristically traded crooked numbers in Game 1 of the Series, the consensus heading into Game 5 was that things would be different. They had to be different. Lincecum was the two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner, Lee the hottest pitcher on the planet.
"The last game, maybe my nerves got the best of me," Lincecum said. "There was a little adrenaline rush and I didn't keep myself collected. Today, knowing those things were going to happen, I took more deep breaths. I took time when I needed to."
So did Lee. And both pitchers, as expected, were better, trading zeroes until Edgar Renteria cracked the game-winning, three-run home run off Lee in the seventh.
Finally given a lead, Lincecum was not about to relent. Not with that look.
|Tim Lincecum||11/1/10||SF 3, TEX 1||8||3||1||10|
|Sandy Koufax||10/14/65||LAD 2, MIN 0||9||3||0||10|
|Orval Overall||10/14/08||CHC 2, DET 0||9||3||0||10|
"Timmy pitched outstanding tonight," Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. "To go out and do what he did against this lineup, on this stage, was incredible. Cliff threw amazing as well -- he threw an absolute great game, too. But you can't say enough about Timmy."
And, like Cain and Madison Bumgarner before him, Lincecum completely shut down one of the best offenses in the league. Other than Nelson Cruz, who homered off him with one out in the seventh on what Posey called "a pretty good pitch," Lincecum was untouchable. His fastball popped and his slider, even more than his vaunted changeup, generated all sorts of awkward swings and misses.
"His delivery and everything was much better tonight," pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "I thought he was so much more under control."
Perhaps it's somewhat fitting that in the most significant outing of his career, Lincecum needed to make adjustments. He has been doing so all season long, tweaking more this year than he ever needed to during his Cy Young seasons in 2008 and 2009.
Three months ago, with his ERA creeping near 4.00, Lincecum altered his workout routine, increasing his core and leg strength in the hopes of generating a more consistent delivery.
"After that, it became more about what I wanted to throw as opposed to how I was going to throw it," Lincecum said. "It just kept getting better."
He turned back into The Freak, one of the most feared pitchers in baseball. And his attitude followed. His swagger returned. Questions of "What's wrong with Timmy?" disappeared.
"He just was tired of looking bad and wanted to try something," Righetti said. "The reason why it worked is because he saw this team was going to be good."
Even so, Lincecum was hardly dominant this postseason. Hardly electric. Until, that is, he walked into Rangers Ballpark with that look crackling out of his coal-black eyes.
Romo saw it. Posey saw it. Righetti saw it. And they all knew what was going to happen.
"Timmy's Timmy," Cain said. "He's a guy that's relaxed, having fun and doing his thing."
Shortly after the victory, Lincecum was still relaxed, still having fun and still doing his thing, his hair matted in place by a backwards cap. His look, though, was different. It was warmer. The intensity had vanished, replaced by some other rare emotion.
"It's amazing," Lincecum said. "That's it right there. A lot of guys have been waiting for this day."