Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Giants' Lincecum works his way to another complete game win against A's

Looking at the box score from the Giants’ 4-1 win Tuesday night over the A’s, you’d think this was just another no-sweat, Tim Lincecum gem.

He struck out 12 A’s. He pitched his fourth career complete game and second straight against the A’s this season. He allowed just seven hits and one run, Jason Giambi’s solo home run in the second. And he took just two hours and 16 minutes to complete the job.

Easy, right? Not exactly. Lincecum knows how hard he had to work to hold the A’s to one run and pitch a complete game.

He escaped one-out, bases-loaded jams in the fifth and sixth innings. Then the A’s put the first two batters on base in the seventh but came up empty.

“Tremendous effort,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He got in a couple jams. Double plays both times saved us there… He has tremendous poise. He makes pitches when he has to have them.”

In his previous start, Lincecum took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning against the Angels. The Angels scored three times in the eighth and won 4-3, handing Lincecum his second loss of the season. This time the Giants built a 4-0 lead and led 4-1 after two innings. Lincecum said the memory of that loss to the Angels fueled him against the A’s.

“I was just trying to make really good pitches, especially when they got guys on in scoring position,” Lincecum said. “I think that’s kind of what helped me focus in those innings when I ran into a couple jams with the bases loaded.

“I was able to induce ground balls. All in all, I was just trying to keep the ball down and trying to not let them get the ball up in the air and scratch back with one run here and there.”

With one out in the fifth inning, the A’s Ryan Sweeney and Orlando Cabrera hit back-to-back singles. Lincecum walked Daric Barton, loading the bases, and A’s manager Bob Geren sent pinch hitter Nomar Garciaparra to the plate for Jack Hannahan.

Lincecum got Garciaparra to ground into a 5-4-3 double play, third baseman Pablo Sandoval handling a tricky hop.

“I’m trying to get a ground ball there,” Lincecum said. “That’s kind of why I went with a slider there. Hopefully catch him off guard. It worked out in hindsight.”

The next inning the A’s loaded the bases again with one out. Adam Kennedy led off with a single. After Jack Cust struck out, Matt Holliday doubled Kennedy to third, and Jason Giambi worked a walk, loading the bases.

This time, Lincecum got Kurt Suzuki to hit a soft two-hopper to shortstop Edgar Renteria, who stepped on second then threw to first for a double play.

“That kid, he’s unbelievable,” Giants catcher Bengie Molina said of Lincecum. “That kid is special. … That’s what I think he’s shown ever since he’s come up. He doesn’t rattle that easy.”

Lincecum got into more trouble in the seventh when Sweeney and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles again to open the frame. But he struck out Daric Barton, got Bobby Crosby to ground into a fielder’s choice then retired Kennedy on a fly ball that left fielder Andres Torres caught in foul territory before running into the wall.

Crosby’s ground ball, which ricocheted off Lincecum’s glove to second baseman Matt Downs, led to some controversy. When Downs flipped the ball to Renteria, the ball popped out of his glove as he tried to turn two. Second base umpire Mike Reilly ruled that Renteria had control long enough for the out, a call that drew the ire of A’s fans.

Lincecum is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in four career starts against the A’s with 34 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.

“They’re doing their thing, too,” Lincecum said of the A’s. “They had seven hits. They put me in pretty tough situations. You flip a coin, and sometimes maybe the outcome is different, but it worked out in my favor today.”

By the end of the game, a large contingent of Giants fans was giving Lincecum a standing ovation as he completed the shutout.

“There was a lot of yellow and green out there, but there was a lot of black and orange, too,” Lincecum said. “You see wrestling going on in the stands. You hear yelling, bad things being said here and there.”

Rickey's return trip to Bay Area in '89 nearly ended in San Francisco

It’s been 20 seasons since the A’s swept the Giants in the 1989 World Series, a series remembered more for the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake that struck before Game 3 at Candlestick Park than for Oakland’s dominance on the field.

About a dozen players from that A’s team gathered for a reunion of sorts before Tuesday night’s game against the Giants at the Coliseum. Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco – the Bash Brothers -- were absent, for all of the obvious steroids-related reasons.

But Rickey Henderson, still polishing his speech just a few weeks before his Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown, showed up for the party and received a standing ovation during a pregame ceremony.

Henderson returned to the A’s that year in a midseason trade from the Yankees. To hear Henderson tell it before Tuesday’s game, he could well have been wearing orange and black during the ’89 World Series.

“We had the deal made with the Giants,” Henderson said. “And then when we asked them what they wanted me to do for their club, they wanted me to play right field and bat fifth. The deal was off.”

Henderson hit leadoff and played center field. Period. A few days later, Henderson said, the A’s stepped in and made the trade.

“It was surprising that I was coming back home,” Henderson said. “That was a good thing. I was coming back home. It was really new life. Sometimes we get in that last (year of a) contract, you want to have such great success in that year to get you a contract and then all of a sudden things aren’t going right, and it’s just all crazy. So it was a new life for me.”

Henderson hit just .247 in 65 games for George Steinbrenner’s Yankees that season. He had three homers, 22 RBI and 25 stolen bases. In 85 regular-season games with the A’s, he hit .294 with nine home runs, 35 RBI and 52 steals.

Henderson saved his best for the postseason that year. He hit .400 in a 4-1 series win over Toronto, earning ALCS MVP honors, then hit .474 in the World Series.

“Rickey’s a spotlight guy,” said Dave Henderson, an outfielder on that team. “The more people watch him, the better he’s going to play.”

The ’89 A’s were already a dominant team before general manager Sandy Alderson and team owner Wally Haas made the deal for Henderson.

“Walter was a winner,” said pitcher Dave Stewart, the MVP of the ’89 series. “Sandy was a winner. We really believed in putting our feet on people’s necks. Getting Rickey was the move that put us over the top.”

Alderson said he made the trade while talking to the Yankees from a “pay phone in Mill Valley,” back in the days when they had phone booths.

“There was a little bit of debate internally, whether we should do it or not,” Alderson said. “There wasn’t a lot. … It worked out pretty well.”