Tim Lincecum: Has the San Francisco Giants Ace Finally Turned the Corner?

Bruce FriedmanCorrespondent IIJune 23, 2012

Tim Lincecum Looked Like The Freak of Old at Times Friday Night
Tim Lincecum Looked Like The Freak of Old at Times Friday NightThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I'm sure like all San Francisco Giants fans, watching the first inning of last night's 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics was both excruciating and exhilarating.  

By the time the second batter for the A's, Jemile Weeks, had finished his at bat, Oakland already had a 1-0 lead. It got worse.

After Weeks' RBI single, Josh Reddick singled, and Yoenis Cespedes walked to load the bases. Seth Smith reached on one of the strangest fielder's choices you'll ever see, as both Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez contributed to the A's second run with misplays. 

Then, Lincecum walked in the third run of the inning, and there were still no outs. Already, the Giants had bullpen activity. 

For those of us who have witnessed Tim Lincecum's previous 14 starts, the fear was that this would be the worst one of all. All of a sudden, visions of an eight-run inning couldn't be denied. 

Then something amazing happened. Instead of completely falling apart, like he has so many times this year, Lincecum pulled it together. 

Brandon Moss struck out swinging. So did Kurt Suzuki. Ditto for Cliff Pennington. 

So, instead of a huge crooked number that would have virtually put the Giants out of the game in the first inning, Lincecum held the line at three runs. 

Then, he retired the side in the second with just a walk. In the third, Timmy had a rare (for him this season) 1-2-3 inning with two K's. In all, Lincecum followed up that rocky first by retiring 15 of the next 17 batters before leaving at the end of the sixth. He struck out eight. He didn't allow a hit after the first. 

Getting out of that first inning jam, as rare as it was for Lincecum in 2012, may have been a turning point for the Giants' struggling ace. He looked very much like the Big Time Timmy Jim of old the rest of the way. The fact the Giants came back in the ninth to win the game had to boost his confidence as well. The Giants hadn't won a Lincecum start since April 28! 

Since early in the season, my suspicion has been that the issue with Lincecum is between his ears. Yes, an injury was and still is a possibility, but the Giants don't believe that to be the case. In fact, they've been adamant about that. They've been equally firm that they didn't want to pull him from the rotation or send him to the minors. 

Although I suggested a minor league stint, possibly missing a start or two and even an MRI, none of that has happened. Funny enough, Tim's dad went public, blasting people like me for having these thoughts.

Is Tim Lincecum Back?
Is Tim Lincecum Back?Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

But, I think that most others like myself have been primarily concerned about getting him right, which is why we made these suggestions. Plus, Tim's ragged performance has hurt the team. Keep in mind, when Lincecum doesn't pitch, the Giants have the best record in baseball. 

In all of the above cases, I hope the Giants and Lincecum prove me wrong. 

Last night was a huge step forward. 

Timmy still looks to be a bit uncomfortable pitching from the stretch position, and he didn't have to do it too much last night. Keep in mind that those strikeouts in the first inning came from the windup. 

The next test comes Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park when the Los Angeles Dodgers make their first trip to San Francisco this season.  

But, for the first time in a long time, we can truly say that Tim Lincecum has taken a big step in the right direction. Let's just hope it continues.