In seven innings, Lincecum allowed just four hits and struck out eight while shutting out the Dodgers. He tagged Chad Billingsley out at home plate, and he even scored the first run of the game.
Because of his great performance, Lincecum recorded his first win since April 28 and lowered his ERA from 6.07 to 5.60. And how did he respond in his next start?
By allowing eight runs (seven earned), raising his ERA to 6.08 and losing once again.
Lincecum was terrible on Tuesday against the Nationals. Hector Sanchez, the catcher, would set his glove somewhere, and Lincecum would throw the ball nowhere near Sanchez's mitt. Usually, the ball ended up being smacked into the outfield for a hit.
And this time, it wasn't just one bad inning that killed Lincecum. It was three bad innings.
Whenever Lincecum made a mistake, Washington capitalized. With two outs and a runner on second base in the third inning, Sanchez called for a low breaking ball. However, the pitch dipped too low, and Ian Desmond crushed it into the seats.
By then, the Nationals had a comfortable 5-0 lead. And, they made Lincecum look like the pitcher who had a 6.19 ERA just three starts ago.
Just as we thought Lincecum had turned the corner, he showed us why he is 3-9 with an ERA north of 6.00 this year.
Bruce Bochy has tried everything besides sending Lincecum down to the minors. He now has Hector Sanchez catching well, and after two decent outings from Lincecum (with Sanchez catching), Bochy thought he had found a solution.
Sanchez wasn't perfect, and while I believe Bochy should have continued to let Buster Posey catch Lincecum, Sanchez did call another decent game. However, Lincecum's sliders moved too far, his breaking balls dipped too far, and his fastballs didn't hit the intended target.
As a result, the Nationals dominated. They capitalized on almost every Lincecum mistake, and Lincecum was rocked. Now, the questions that have been haunting Lincecum since his poor April are coming back.
Most people think the issues are mental, but I think it's a little bit of both. Lincecum seems to be haunted by one bad inning in most games, although he has been failing to throw the ball as fast as he used to.
Lincecum's fastballs are usually about 92 miles per hour. That isn't too slow, but when he's missing his spots and throwing slower than he used to (which was around 95), there is a lot of concern from Giants fans.
While I don't think Lincecum will continue to allow more than six runs per nine innings, I think he will never be an ace again. Lincecum is still striking guys out, but by missing his spots and throwing slower, he is making himself more vulnerable and allowing more runs.
Hitters are learning not to chase the pitches Lincecum throws. Sometimes, he makes guys look foolish, and other times, hitters make him look foolish. However, since he isn't as accurate and isn't throwing as hard, I don't think he will ever be an ace again.
Which means he will never return to his top form.
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