Tim Lincecum got somewhat lost amid the late-game theatrics in Tuesday’s loss to the Rockies.
Lincecum’s final line was nothing to write home about — four runs on seven hits and three walks in seven innings. Yet through five innings, Lincecum was very good, allowing just one run on three hits and one walk.
He retired the side in order in the first two innings, striking out three. He did not allow his first hit until the fourth inning.
But things rapidly went awry in the sixth with Angel Pagan’s foolish decision to attempt a shoe-string catch on Troy Tulowitzki’s liner to center.
Instead of playing the ball on a hop for a single, Pagan tried to make a lunging catch. But the ball went under his glove and all the way to the center-field wall for a single and a two-base error. If Tulowitzki weren’t so hobbled by a bruise foot sustained Tuesday, he would have easily rounded the bases and scored. Instead, he simply jogged to third.
Ever the apologist, manager Bruce Bochy gave Pagan a pass.
“That’s part of the game when you’re hopefully playing aggressive,” Bochy said. “I don’t want these guys to go the other way. I probably would have felt worse if he had backed off and caught it on one hop there if he had a chance to catch it. And he was pretty close to catching that.”
OK, there’s a difference between playing aggressively and playing smart. The Giants need to play smart, and they need a manager who understands that.
First, as a center fielder with a ball hit directly at you, you have to know that if you miss it that will lead to big, BIG trouble because it’s unlikely someone will be there to back you up. It’s much different on a ball hit to either gap, when either the left or right fielder could be in position to back you up.
Also, the situation dictates how you play that. If there’s a runner on third with two outs and the liner to center is hit, yeah, be aggressive. Try to catch the ball to prevent the run.
But this was with one out and no one on. Then it becomes a risk-reward situation. You could A) catch the ball for an out; B) play the ball on a hop for a one-out single to a slow-moving baserunner who will clog up the basepaths; or C) miss the catch and potentially turn it into a four-base play.
The smart play is to play it on a hop and trust that Lincecum can work around the one-out single … like he had done previously in the game.
Instead, there’s a runner on third with one out. So Lincecum pitches around Todd Helton for his second walk, trying to set up a double play. He gets Michael Cuddyer to hit a grounder, but it’s right over the third-base bag for a double, scoring Tulowitzki.
Then Lincecum walks Ramon Hernandez to load the bases. Lincecum gets Jordan Pacheco to hit a fly to shallow center, which should have afforded Pagan a chance to throw out the slow-footed Helton. But Pagan’s throw is nowhere near the plate, and Helton scores.
Pagan’s aggrssiveness led to two runs being scored. It led to two of Lincecum’s three walks (which were basically intentional). It led to a stressful inning that caused Lincecum’s pitch count to mount. And it led to Lincecum to wonder what he needs to do to pitch better when in fact, he did his job.
But apparently all of that is perfectly fine with Bochy.