Tim Lincecum can erase an entire season of disappointment with one good start in Game 4 of the NLCS. The San Francisco Giants are turning to the two-time Cy Young Award winner to level the series after the St. Louis Cardinals took a 2-1 lead on Wednesday night.
It was a regular season the usually reliable Lincecum would rather forget. He finished with a 10-15 record and an ERA of 5.18, by far the worst season of his career. It wasn't just one or two bad months, either. He struggled every step of the way.
His poor performance forced him into the bullpen to start the postseason. Instead of sulking, he pitched some of his best innings of the year. He gave up just one run in eight and a third innings with nine strikeouts and just one walk.
Those are the type of numbers Giants fans had come to expect from Lincecum as a starter. And they were apparently enough to reassure manager Bruce Bochy that the right-hander was the right choice to start on Thursday.
It was the right choice. The trip to the bullpen didn't only lead to better results from Lincecum, it also allowed him to clear his mind after a season where it seemed like everything began to snowball on him early and he couldn't recover.
He's still one of the most talented pitchers in baseball. Getting a chance to basically press the reset button before the Game 4 start should really help Lincecum.
Which team will win Game 4?
After watching Matt Cain, who stepped up and served as the team's ace during the regular season, struggle in Game 3, Lincecum gets a chance to swoop in and save the day. It's a perfect chance at redemption.
The Giants need it. Falling behind 3-1 to a Cardinals team that continues to find ways to succeed in the playoffs would put San Francisco in a hole it's highly unlikely to get out of.
While it's tough to project how Lincecum's bullpen success will translate as he returns to the rotation, one thing that's for sure is that he will be more motivated than ever to perform at a high level. He knows how critical the game is and wants to prove he can handle it.
Nobody should be surprised if he looks like the dominant pitcher of years past. He's going up against Adam Wainwright, who got crushed by the Washington Nationals in his last outing, so expectations for both pitchers are all over the place.
Lincecum will step up and deliver the performance the Giants need. Just like the old days.