ARLINGTON, Texas — Tim Lincecum hurdled the dugout rail to return to the field and celebrate. Typical Timmy, too. He rarely takes the traditional route.
Shaggy hair. Funky delivery. World Series star.
Lincecum took the ball for his biggest outing yet and showed he’s still every bit the ace who won the last two NL Cy Young Awards. Lincecum — call him the Freak or Franchise — pitched the Giants to their first World Series championship since moving West to San Francisco in 1958 in a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
“Usually it was dreaming about being a hitter,” he said of his youth. “But I’ll take this.”
Make it two World Series wins for the slightly built righthander: the opener and the clincher. While he was just good enough to beat Cliff Lee in Game 1, Lincecum had everything working in this one.
The face of these Giants since the departure of home run king Barry Bonds in 2007, Lincecum now has a World Series ring symbolizing the greatest team accomplishment to go alongside all the individual accolades.
This tops it all. With a title in hand, he will have to be considered among the best pitchers of his era. If he wasn’t already.
During the on-field ceremony when Lincecum got to hold the trophy, he looked at it and said, “Shiny.”
Few will remember that career-worst, five-start losing streak in August — because only four months after his 26th birthday he ruled the Rangers in the Giants’ first chance to close this out. No sending this series back to AT&T Park with title-starved Giants fans fearing another collapse.
It’s fitting San Francisco won the World Series playing the kind of game it had all year: a close one dependent on the pitcher being almost perfect.
“Pretty collected. I was very poised out there,” Lincecum said. “From the first inning on my Adrenaline kind of just dissipated and I was able to calm down.”
Lincecum struck out 10 and walked two in eight dominant innings, a spectacular 101-pitch performance that gives him his own place in history. He needed all of 19 pitches to get through two innings, tossing six pitches in a 1-2-3 second. He got Texas to swing early and often, to chase pitches and press for quick outs.
Lincecum beat Atlanta ace Derek Lowe in the division series, then Roy Halladay in the NLCS after Doc had no-hit the Reds in the first round. Then, Lincecum beat Lee twice — a pitcher who was a perfect 7-0 in the postseason coming into the Series.
“To go out and do what he did against this lineup, on this stage, was incredible,” outfielder Cody Ross said.
Lincecum completed what generations of Giants greats and Hall of Famers couldn’t. And in a hostile environment to boot.
“I couldn’t come up with enough good words to describe what our pitchers did,” second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. “It would be an understatement. They were unbelievable.”
Bonds and the 2002 team were within six outs of winning it all against the wild-card Angels. Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda are still haunted by their near-miss in 1962. The 1989 Giants were swept by the cross-bay rival Oakland Athletics in an earthquake-interrupted World Series.
Who would have thought it would be Lincecum and crew to finally do it?
“He devastated that lineup,” fellow pitcher Barry Zito said. “Timmy was cool as a cucumber out there tonight. I don’t even think he threw a curveball. He stayed with his heater and he stayed with his slider. The other side showed that they were on the defensive because they were swinging at the first pitch and they were more aggressive than usual. Timmy took advantage of it.”
Only two months ago, Lincecum acknowledged his confidence was shaken and he was “searching” through that uncharacteristic funk. Manager Bruce Bochy and teammates believe he’s been better off having gone through it — having exhibited he is indeed human.
Lincecum turned to video and long discussions with pitching coach Dave Righetti, looking to regain the edge that made him one of baseball’s most feared pitchers in recent years. He insists he has matured in the past year, which included an offseason marijuana bust back in his home state of Washington. Lincecum apologized repeatedly and insists that made him better. He has thanked San Francisco’s faithful for sticking by him.
The Giants still rewarded him with a $23 million, two-year contract right before spring training.
Lincecum — with that awkward-looking throwing motion taught by his father when he was a boy growing up near Seattle — is the ideal example that it’s not all about how imposing a pitcher looks on the mound.
At 5-foot-11 and a generously listed 170 pounds, Lincecum used to be mistaken for a bat boy when entering the ballpark after he was first called up in May 2007 — less than a year removed from the University of Washington.
In the dugout between innings, he hides his head under a towel. On nights he’s not pitching, his face can barely be seen inside an oversized hooded sweatshirt.
It’s those quirks — and others such as not icing his arm and eating ice cream cones before starts — that make the Lincecum who he is.
Maybe his latest thrill will help him come out of that shell. Though, why change what certainly works just fine? He is the Freak, after all.