- Tim Lincecum was untouchable in Game 1 of the NLDS, striking out 14 and walking one in a complete game shutout. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
One run, that’s all it took. One lousy, undeserved run. Tim Lincecum missed nearly every bat — and 2nd-base umpire Paul Emmel, a decisive call – as the Giants cruised in the NLDS opener.
24 hours after Roy Halladay posted a no-no in his postseason debut, Lincecum was nearly as unhittable in his first playoff start, striking out 14, walking one, and surrendering only two hits on the way to a complete-game shutout. As dominant a performance as Timmy turned in, it’s hard to imagine any decent starting pitcher not giving the Braves similar fits at the moment. As the lineup is currently comprised, there are four automatic outs every trip through the order, including the pitcher.
The biggest heap of nothingness, Rick Ankiel. With his 40% contact rate sitting lower than some pitchers, Rick Ankiel is lucky to even put it in play these days, let alone reach safely. Alex Gonzalez has drawn a whopping 3 walks in the last 30 days, and has more strikeouts than hits (23 to 22). I’ll give A-Gone some credit though, his .294 OBP for the season is quite impressive. You have to try to suck that bad at getting on base. (To be fair, if Gonzo were hitting in the 7 or 8 hole like he should be, this wouldn’t be such a huge deal. But since Gonzo is currently being used as a 5th hitter, it’s a very huge deal.)
Matt Diaz getting the start against a RHP surprised me, and he proved true to his platoon splits, going 0-3 with a K. Diaz saw 7 total pitches in 3 at-bats. I know swinging at the first pitch is your thing, Matty, but come on.
One must note that the Braves helped facilitate the dominant performance by obliging to swing whenever possible. The lack of contact was alarming, out of the 75 strikes Lincecum threw, 30 were swinging and only 14 were put in play. But even against a historically bad playoff lineup, you gotta tip your cap to Lincecum.
Derek Lowe pitched nearly as well, albeit less efficiently, requiring 96 pitches to get through 5 and 1/3 innings. While the bullpen was brilliant, it sucked to have to burn four arms to get through two innings. It also sucked to once again have our greatest strength neutralized by our greatest weakness. As nice as it is to have an endless supply of fire breathing dragons in the ‘pen, it’s a worthless commodity without an offense capable of providing a lead
What can Bobby do to shake things up in Game 2 against Matt Cain? Well, we could see Nate McLouth in center to fill Ankiel’s black hole, though it’s arguable whether or not McLouth would do any better, and Melky Cabrera or Eric Hinske could replace Matt Diaz, if only to get another left-handed (or switch-hitting, in Cabrera’s case) bat in the lineup against the right-handed Cain.
If the Braves are going to head back to The Ted with the series tied, they’re going to need to jump start their offense immediately, and hope that the trend of brilliant postseason debuts continues with the 23-year-old Tommy Hanson.