Tim Lincecum had a nightmare start in Cincinnati last year, giving up eight runs in large part because of speedy Billy Hamilton. The center fielder twice led off an inning with a hit when he faced Lincecum last year, and the Reds scored eight times in those innings. Lincecum made a crucial throwing error and later admitted that Hamilton got in his head.
“I needed to do a better job of eliminating him,” Lincecum said after that loss last year. “Not thinking about him so much, and just worrying about what I had ahead of me.”
Lincecum wasn’t really worrying about Hamilton tonight, but he still found a foe sneaking into his head. An unlikely one, at that.
Lincecum twice slipped on the mound at Great American Ball Park and admitted after a 4-3 loss that the footing crept all the way up to his tilted cap. He ended up walking five and hitting one while giving up three runs in 4 2/3.
“I wouldn’t say physically it affected me, just more mentally it got a hold of me,” he said. “Today the mound got the better of me, and that’s my fault.”
Whatever mental mistakes were made were not limited to Lincecum. Joe Panik got a bad jump on what looked like a two-run single by Buster Posey in the first inning and then got thrown out a few minutes later on a strange two-out play that included Posey breaking for second.
“I don’t know what happened,” Bruce Bochy said of that first inning. “Little things got us tonight. The first inning, I thought we had a chance to put a crooked number up and didn’t take advantage of it. You get your chances against a guy like that and you want to take full advantage and I don’t think we did early.”
Johnny Cueto was able to lock in and eventually the Reds got a lead to Aroldis Chapman. The latter happened in part because Andrew Susac was picked off by Tony Cingrani when he wasn’t even attempting to run. Susac was about two steps off the bag, but Cingrani has a good (borderline illegal) move and it worked.
This lineup isn’t currently deep enough to make up for that many mental mistakes, especially with Brandon Belt all of a sudden in a deep funk (eight strikeouts in three games).
“Right now, we’ve got a couple guys struggling,” Bochy said. “That line is stopping.”
--- The good news: Hunter Pence is currently 2 for 2 for the River Cats with his second homer of the rehab assignment. It seems a very good bet that we see him Tuesday against the Dodgers.
--- Another hit and walk for Angel Pagan, who also played sparkling defense. Pagan is seventh in the National League with a .336 average. More importantly, he’s eighth in the league in at-bats, which means he’s staying on the field. A healthy Pagan is a very, very productive Pagan. That’s always been the case.
“He’s playing great,” Bochy said. “He’s really doing a great job on both sides. He’s such a good player. He’s a ballplayer. He gives you speed, great at-bats. He’s really been consistent since Day 1.”