Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Oswalt: Now a Classic Showdown
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum has started 104 games in his career. In those 104 games, eight have been against the Houston Astros.
And in those eight games, Lincecum has faced off against long-time Astros ace Roy Oswalt six times.
That's 75 percent.
In baseball, with all the maneuvering that goes on, the roster turnover and the random off-days, the chances of a pitcher even facing the same team a few times over the course of the season is rare — much less having the rotation line up so that the same pitchers pitted against each other every time.
But Lincecum and Oswalt share more than just a few box scores with each other. They share a reputation. They break the mold, they lead their team, and they dominate opposing hitters.
They were both passed upon by many teams because of their small stature, and have emerged as two of the most elite pitchers of the decade.
This slideshow will be a recap of their six meetings so far, so get ready for a walk down memory lane.
Know Thine Enemy: Roy Oswalt
Back when the Astros were still a force to be reckoned with in the NL Central, they boasted one of the best offensive teams, led by the Killer B's (Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman).
And their pitching staff was anchored by a much less intimidating figure—Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt is still not a small man, standing six feet tall and weighing 190 pounds. But by professional athlete standards, he's undoubtedly on the small side.
Even when names like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite graced the Houston rotation, there was still little doubt that Oswalt was the ace of the staff. He's been their Opening Day starter since 2003, been to the All-Star Game three times, and had two 20-win seasons.
His compact size belies his strength, as he still possesses the ability to pump mid-90s fastballs through seven innings, even at age 32. His curveball is still one of the best from the right side, and he's still averaging over 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
May 17, 2007—Giants Win 2-1
In Lincecum's third start of his career, he was dropped in a cage with Roy Oswalt and the second-place Astros. He emerged without a victory, but with an immediate reputation as the real deal.
"Somebody said he kind of looks like the batboy," said teammate Randy Winn of Lincecum. "But you're not the batboy when you pitch like that."
I'm pretty sure there aren't many batboys who can take the mound as a rookie and fan 10, including six of seven in a span of three innings. He also struck out future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio three times.
He might not have received the win, but the short-haired kid had made an impression. Seven shutout innings against a good offense will catch the attention of a lot of people around the league.
Score: Lincecum 1, Oswalt 0
May 22, 2007—Giants win 4-2
Giants fans quickly grew accustomed to Lincecum's fist pump, and for good reason—it happened more times than it didn't. And only five days after his domination of the Astros offense in Houston, he had the chance to do it again at home in San Francisco.
Only one man stood in his way: Roy Oswalt. Only five days after their first meeting, they met again in a different stadium.
Lincecum, again, was the last one standing.
After giving up two runs in the top of the fourth, the Giants offense found a way to score four off of Oswalt and gave their young star the second win of his career.
Lincecum only struck out four, but he induced 15 ground-ball outs while only throwing 104 pitches in eight innings.
"I like strikeouts," Lincecum admitted to MLB's Chris Haft. "I try to get strikeouts, but when it doesn't work that way, I'm going to keep pitching the way that they're going to get themselves out."
Score: Lincecum 2, Oswalt 0
August 12, 2008 —Astros win 12-4
When you look at the score, you might think that this cannot possibly have any silver lining for Lincecum.
And it doesn't, really. Except for the fact that he didn't pitch badly at all.
Actually, Lincecum was, once again, dominating the Houston offense. Aside from giving up a pair of runs, only one earned, in the third, he was still his crafty self, striking out seven Astros and only allowing one hit.
Then, in the fifth, he took a line-drive off the knee, which probably hurt a little bit, and had to leave the game. That's when things went downhill.
Lincecum left the game ahead 3-2. Keiichi Yabu and Alex Hinshaw both came in and held the lead.
And then Tyler Walker, Jack Taschner, and Geno Espineli gave up 10 earned runs, and the game was over.
Not much more to recap here.
Score: Lincecum 2, Oswalt 1
April 5, 2010—Giants Win 5-2
For some unknown reason, Lincecum and Oswalt did not face each other in 2009. Oswalt had the worst year of his career, failing to register double-digits in wins for the first time in his career. Lincecum proceeded to win his second Cy Young Award.
But in 2010, the Giants opened the season in Houston, and on Opening Day, the aces always come out.
Lincecum had just come off a crucial off-season in his young career. He won his second consecutive Cy Young Award, which a lot of people thought that Lincecum won because of a split vote. He was charged in Washington for driving and smoking pot. Oh, and he also signed a giant (no pun intended) $23 million contract right before his arbitration hearing.
And who better to face than Oswalt?
Lincecum continued to dazzle, striking out seven in seven innings, allowing only four hits, no runs and no walks. It lowered his ERA against Houston to 1.37, and cemented his two Cy Youngs as no fluke.
Score: Lincecum 3, Oswalt 1
May 15, 2010 - Giants Win 2-1
I couldn't find any pictures from this game, so here's Lincecum doing his wizard impression in the Giants snuggie.
It was a battle once again on May 15. Oswalt gave his all, throwing his then league-leading eighth straight quality start and only giving up two runs in seven innings of work.
But yet again, Lincecum was better, pitching eight innings, only giving up one run, and striking out five. He also walked five, but only one of them crossed the plate.
This game was also dramatic because of the marathon at-bat between Brian Wilson and Kaz Matsui, which lasted 15 pitches, all with the bases loaded.
"I didn't feel like I had a good rhythm," Lincecum said after the game. "I was fighting myself with mechanics. It turned out all right... Roy pitched a great game today and didn't win. It happens."
It has happened almost every time, with Oswalt giving up no more than four runs against Lincecum in all of their starts, and still coming out on the short end of the stick.
Score: Lincecum 4, Oswalt 1
June 22, 2010 - Giants Win 3-1
Since they didn't match up at all in 2009, Lincecum and Oswalt decided to make up for it here in 2010, facing off three times before the All-Star break.
The Giants will be done with Houston after this series, and unless by some provident development that both the Giants and the Astros make the playoffs, these two are done for the year.
But after a shaky stretch in 2010, Lincecum proved once more that he can pitch better than the pitcher he is so frequently compared to.
Again, Oswalt did not disappoint by any means. He threw seven strong innings, giving up two runs and striking out five.
But, again, Lincecum was better, going eight innings, giving up one run (unearned), and striking out seven Astros.
The Giants once again scored just enough to push Lincecum into the victory column for the eighth time this year, and in his career face-offs against Oswalt, San Francisco is now 5-1.
Lincecum and Oswalt will continue to be compared to each other, but the next time a young pitcher comes along who stands less than six feet tall, it might not be Oswalt that he's compared to anymore.