Nervous father watches as Giants’ Tim Lincecum tries to make history

October 21, 2010

By Larry Stone

NEW — 10:30 a.m. Oct. 21, 2010

Watching his son, Tim, pitch makes Chris Lincecum a nervous wreck — a trait shared by every player and manager the Giants face.

When he’s at the ballpark, Chris Lincecum will wander around the stands. When he’s at home in Bellevue, he’ll take out a three-inch binder and meticulously chart the game.

He did that when “Timmy,” as his dad still calls him, was running roughshod through college baseball at Washington (dominance that still didn’t convince the hometown major-league team to draft him, a fact I promise to never mention again. In this column, anyway; and one that inspires the elder Lincecum to say, pointedly — after ticking off the supposed reasons why Lincecum was supposed to fizzle in the majors, two Cy Youngs ago, “Oops.”).

Chris started a new notebook when Tim joined the Giants’ organization in 2006, beginning with his first minor-league game.

“I don’t do this for him,” he said, chuckling, in a recent phone interview. “I do this for my sanity.”

These days, Chris Lincecum is reveling in Lincecum’s insanely successful run of great pitching, including two playoff victories, as he heads into Thursday’s rematch against Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series in San Francisco. If he wins again, the Giants are in the World Series. Lincecum came out on top in the much-heralded NLCS opener in Philadelphia, a 4-3 Giants win.

Lincecum’s playoff debut, in the opener of the Division Series against Atlanta, was an epic two-hit, 14-strikeout, 1-0 victory. By some metrics, including Bill James’ “Game Score” formula, it was a more dominant performance than Halladay’s no-hitter against the Reds in the other Division Series.

Chris Lincecum, now retired from Boeing, was charting that one at home, peeking at the television when he dared to. Finally, when Tim struck out Derrek Lee, on his 119th pitch, to end the game, Chris had a cathartic release.

“Didn’t you hear me screaming out the window?” he said. “I’m sure they heard me in California.”

In this Year of the Pitcher, and Postseason of Aces, Lincecum has stepped to the forefront, along with Halladay, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia. Though Lincecum’s regular season was not as dominant as his first two, he persevered through the roughest stretch of his career to regain his stature as one of the game’s premier hurlers.

In August, Lincecum was 0-5 with a 7.82 earned-run average, and there began to be whispers that his reign of preeminence was ending. More galling to Chris Lincecum was the innuendo that Timmy’s supposedly lax work ethic was the culprit.

“That questions his integrity and character,” Chris Lincecum said. “Those are fighting words to me.”

The elder Lincecum believes it was more mechanical than anything, and gave Tim a few suggestions, as he has done throughout his career. Tim made some tweaks, with a little extra conditioning thrown in. Even when Tim was in the midst of his losing streak. Chris saw encouraging signs, and it all came to fruition in September, when Lincecum was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA. October has been even better.

Lincecum recorded a key victory in his final regular-season start, a 3-1, 11-strikeout win over Arizona. Three days later, on the final day of the season, they clinched the NL West title with a 3-0 win over the Padres. Chris Lincecum was at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and was allowed into the chaotic clubhouse celebration.

“It was absolutely nuts,” he said.

One of the Giants’ coaches congratulated Mr. Lincecum on his son’s good work — Tim finished 16-10 and won his third straight National League strikeout title — and noted that it must have been the first time he ever had to deal with such adversity.

Not quite.

“Remember, he grew up this small kid,” Chris said. “There was always adversity at every age level.”

But Tim’s pro career, except for that monthlong blip, has been filled with triumph, and Chris Lincecum hopes there’s more to come this season. If the Giants make the World Series, he plans to return to San Francisco to watch — or pace — in person.

“I’ve always said the best time as a parent is the day after they played great,” he said. “I’ve always gotten progressively more nervous as it moves closer to his next start.”

Today’s that day, another classic pitchers’ duel between Lincecum and Halladay. Listen for the screaming from Bellevue.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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