It had been 11 days since Tim Lincecum toed the rubber for the beloved orange and black.
So with the Rockies opening a three-game set in San Francisco on Monday, it only made sense that Lincecum made his triumphant return to the Giants' rotation after his back spasms caused Madison Bumgarner to make a unexpected debut.
For 11 days we were left wondering when exactly The Franchise would come back and help the team continue its unexpected playoff run. There was no way the Giants would trot him back out there if he wasn't completely healthy, but for a guy with such a complex motion, nobody really knew when the back would feel better.
The conspiracy theorists threw out their gibberish, but that didn't matter Monday night. Lincecum had returned, and that's all that mattered.
In a series that matters more than any other at this point in time, The Franchise shined the brightest.
Like many times before, Tiny Tim put Los Gigantes on his small shoulders and the team rode him to a victory, this of the 9-1 variety.
Yes, the Giants scored...nine times.
His control wasn't up to his normal standards—four walks in seven innings—but that seemed to be overlooked as his stuff was as electric as it has been this year. He was in the stretch more than he usually is, surrendering six hits to add to the four walks, and the nine stranded runners were clear evidence of that.
Lincecum had the usual mid-90s fastball cranked up and a disgustingly good changeup falling off the table, but it was his hammer for a curve that made a regular appearance throughout the night—something we hadn't seen much of lately.
In two-strike counts, Lincecum whipped his filthiest stuff. A dirty change here, a fastball with late movement there—that's the kind of stuff the National League's best offense had to deal with.
No small task for anybody. I guess the back is feeling fine.
Just how good was Lincecum last night? Seven of his first 11 outs came via the strikeout, nine of his first 14, and 10 of his first 18.
Take a step back and appreciate greatness.
It was the same ol' showing for Lincecum against the Rockies—especially this year. In the three starts against the Rocks, The Freak has a 2-1 record with a 1.64 ERA. In 22 innings, Lincecum has struck out 26 batters, including the 11 Monday night.
With Lincecum in complete domination mode, the Giants definitely didn't need all nine runs to ensure the win—although it was nice to see the bats come alive for the second straight night when they had been the main reason the team had struggled to get wins lately.
Brad Penny started it Sunday; Lincecum continued it Monday.
The combination of Big and Little has put life back in a team that was looking dead in the water after four straight losses at home. That kind of number is something you would expect when the Giants hit the road, not when they play at the friendly confines of AT&T Park.
The understatement of the season is that they needed this win so incredibly badly. The season was basically dangling on its last string like a loose tooth. The Giants need to win as many games as possible, and they're in the middle of a vital nine-game stretch against the two teams they're chasing in the standings.
Dropping a game against the Rocks won't completely end the season—we've seen crazier things happen—but it certainly would be one hell of a task to try to make up three-and-a-half games with no head-to-head games left against the Rocks.
But out comes Lincecum, still in desperate need of a haircut, with a back that is now back at full health, ready to bring back some hope to the city. And he did just that.
He said he's pretty close to feeling the way he did last year—a scary thought for any opponent he still has to face.
For the Giants and the faithful at Third and King, it's music to their ears.
Now it's on to the next game—which also happens to be the biggest game of the season.
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