ARLINGTON, Texas — Tim Lincecum(notes) already has two Cy Young plaques to his name at the tender age of 26, but if he nabs a victory Monday night over the Texas Rangers, he'll be able to use them as mere bookends for a much bigger conversation piece.
Yeah, winning pitcher for the San Francisco Giants in the World Series clincher has a certain ring to it when making introductions.
The legend of Lincecum has grown steadily since he entered the league in 2007, but there's nothing quite like the validation of being on the mound with a title on the line. Tiny Tim will always have the domination of his first two full seasons to point to, but the cherry on top would be a World Series win in his third.
What's crazy to me is how the stars have always seemed to perfectly align for Lincecum. A lot of that has to do with hard work, certainly, but who could have seen him being the centerpiece of a title team — note the emphasis — just a few years after he unseated Barry Bonds as the biggest baseball name in San Francisco? The rest of his team getting him to a point where he's already serving as a No. 1 pitcher in three different postseason series in one year is something we wouldn't have predicted at season's start. Maybe next season or the year after, sure, but not in 2010.
But he and the Giants are indeed here, just nine innings away from the franchise's first title since 1954. That's easier said than done, of course, especially when you're on the road and your opponent has Cliff Lee(notes) on the mound to save its season.
Also, if we're being honest, Lincecum hasn't been the one-man wrecking machine that he was in Game 1 of the NLDS or that teammates Matt Cain(notes) or Madison Bumgarner(notes) have been since. That's not to say that he's pitched poorly — that's not the case at all — just that it took more than his pitching (ie: normal or excessive run support) to bring home the victory. (See both Game 1s of the NLCS and World Series.)
The last time Lincecum was in a similar position was in Game 5 of the NLCS. A win would've sent the Giants to the World Series, but he couldn't top the Phillies, losing to Roy Halladay(notes) after giving up only three runs over seven innings. Replicate that performance Monday night and the Giants would probably be quite pleased, though I'm guessing Lincecum wants to turn in the type of start that removes all doubt whether his team wins or not.
How Lincecum is actually feeling about this start is hard to say. His only pregame comments came in the awkward press conference he held before Game 4, when no one knew if he'd be pitching for a World Series ring or a 3-2 lead heading back to San Francisco. His pregame thoughts about this situation will be known to only those close to him.
But as I watched him in the postgame clubhouse — a time when most reporters respected the privacy and space that the next day's starter is always given — Lincecum looked like he was ready for business. Dressed in jeans and a short-sleeve flannel shirt, he packed his bag, popped in his headphones and quietly made his way to the bus.
At the time, he was less than 24 hours from trying to pitch San Francisco to its first World Series title in city history.
Now, less than a day later, we're about to find out if he can add that line to his already impressive resume.