KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Of course this is going to be about Tim Lincecum, because the predetermined narrative demands it. It’s enough to make your brain throb. Only it’s way more involved than that.
Lincecum, the Giants’ one sentry on the last outpost in the Yukon this postseason, finally got the call in the long-lost second game of the World Series, and after retiring five Kansas City Royals as the only cheery part of the Giants’ postgame show left the game in pain with what looked like a leg injury of indeterminate severity.
In sum, they lost, 7-2, to tie the series at a game apiece. Bruce Bochy’s managerial acumen was pinata’d about. Hunter Strickland buried himself further in the bullpen pecking order, and Jean Machi far deeper still. And then Lincecum raised and then dashed his supporters’ hopes with stunning swiftness.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants' bullpen rocked, Royals win Game 2]
And now we have the weirdest playoff series of all, weirder than Washington, or St. Louis. A World Series in which everything you know is all bent and dented.
Now who can’t like that?
But first, the Timmyana. He incurred back tightness on his second-to-last pitch in the eighth inning, and will return to San Francisco for an MRI. Neither general manager Brian Sabean nor manager Bruce Bochy regarded it as serious, though they are concerned it could worsen overnight.
So yes, let the angst over his position in the universe resume. Enjoy the fulminations over Bochy’s handling of the sixth inning and let it morph into yet one more Timmy-Fest, at a time when the team’s 12th . . . er, 11th . . . no, make that 10th-most trusted pitcher ought to be down the list of things to consider going into Friday’s third game.
But as a great man once said to torture us all, it is what it is. The audience will have what it demands, and it demands a new debate on T. Leroy Lincecum, even though, barring a bad medical report, the answers are already being provided.
Before this gets too much weirder, credit where it must be paid. The Royals still didn’t get a lot of chances to exhibit their speed, but they scuffed starter Jake Peavy about in the first innings, and then ripped a gaping hole in the bullpen in the sixth, otherwise known as the battleground state in this potentially uncivil war.
Comrade Baggarly will churn up the details, but the key truths are these:
- Peavy fell victim to third-time-through-the-order syndrome, giving up a soft single to Lorenzo Cain and then walking Eric Hosmer “That’s what killed us,” the manager said later. “But Peavy was throwing well, and if I’d second-guess anything, I’d have kept him in if I knew what was going to happen next.”
- Bochy then further tried to push back the time when he had to use his back end of the bullpen by opting for Jean Machi, whose magic has clearly dissipated, and an RBI single by Billy Butler later, later, he was pulled for Javier Lopez.
- One batter after that, Bochy went back to the Strickland well, and in six pitches he eliminated himself from further meaningful participation in this series. He gave up a double to Perez and then a home run to Omar Infante to blow the game up, and unsatisfied with the acrid smoke he’d already released, then took a threatening pose for Perez and caused both benches to empty for a brief chat. It was, from start to finish, a preposterous look for someone who has already had trouble keeping the ball in four of the five parks the Giants have played in this month.
“I was just frustrated,” Strickland kept saying, “but I’m not going to back down when someone says something to me. I don’t know what it was, but I was mad at myself.”
“After I hit the double, he started looking at me at second base,” Perez said. “(And) after Omar hit the bomb and I got close to home plate, he started to look at me and I said, ‘Hey why (are you looking) at me?’ And he was telling me, ‘Get out of here, whatever.’ So I don’t know. You don’t have to treat me like that. ‘Omar hit the bomb. I didn’t hit a bomb. I hit a double.’”
And with excellent reason, as Infante, who hadn’t homered in 143 plate appearances in the postseason, turned a game that was teetering toward oblivion into one that achieved it fully.
On the other hand, this was exactly the game Kansas City manager Ned Yost would draw up if only Major League Baseball would allow it. Runs early to keep the Giants within arm’s length, then extending his C-note-throwing reliever Kelvin Herrera to get two big outs in the sixth and then teaming with Wade Davis and Greg Holland to incinerate the Giants under a hail of heat.
“It’s a huge luxury for me,” Yost said. “After the sixth inning, my thinking is done. I don’t have to mix and match. My concern innings are the fifth and sixth, but once we get past the sixth, my guesswork is done.”
And that is the one part of this series that has held up. The sixth inning is not the end of the argument each day, but you can see it from where both managers are standing, and Wednesday’s sixth inning was everything the Royals could have wanted and the Giants would have despised.
Plus, the Timmy Thing has reinflated itself for your amusement and annoyance, and that, more than anything else except the $1,500 tickets and $300 sweatshirts and $35 beers made from Slovak and Belgian elves, is why they really play the games.
Royals fans got a reason for renewed hope. Yost got another day where people weren’t trying to hold him to an ethereal standard of brain power. Bochy got a day in the wringer. Strickland is now bordering on caricature and will have to be on his best behavior throughout the rest of the series if he is not to be reduced to a full cartoon by the intelligentsia.
And Timmy. First, the Last Chicken in the Butcher’s Window. Then the Vomiting Cavalier. After that, the Lost Boy Returned To Duty, and finally The Wounded Hero, a small but bright light amid the shards of a comprehensive thrashing. Perpetual, omnipresent, every-day’s-a-story-because-he’s-Timmy Timmy.
Now how in your right mind can you argue with that for fun?