The umpires giveth and the umpires taketh away. After getting burned by a blown call against the Mets on Sunday, which cost them the ball game, the umpires gave the Giants one back last night in Los Angeles.
In the ninth inning, with the Giants trailing 5-4, one out and the bases loaded against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, acting manager Don Mattingly (Joe Torre having been ejected along with Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw earlier in the game for hitting Aaron Rowand with a pitch—the third hit batter of the game) went out to discuss the situation with Broxton.
However, as Mattingly was walking back toward the dugout and had just stepped off the pitcher’s mound, he stepped back onto the mound a second time, either to say one last thing or because someone called him back. Giants manager Bruce Boche came out and argued that stepping off and back onto the mound constituted a “second trip to the mound” and thus Broxton had to come out of the game.
The umpires agreed and the Dodgers had to pull Broxton and put in lefty George Sherrill, who’s been struggling mightily of late. Sherrill’s struggles continued as the next hitter, Giants' leadoff man Andres Torres, drove in the tying and winning runs with a double.
Frankly, it seems like kind of a silly rule. It would probably make more sense to require the manager to cross the baselines twice to constitute two separate visits. However, I’m sure the rule exists so that managers can’t come back and give the pitcher any last words of advice after the umpire has come out and told the manager to get his behind back in the dugout.
It’s also gratifying to see Ol’ Boch, who sometimes doesn’t seem like the sharpest managerial tool in the shed, burn the hated Dodgers with handy knowledge of an obscure rule.
Of more concern to Giants’ fans is Tim Lincecum’s continued struggles in last night’s game. He pitched poorly, allowing five earned runs in 4.2 innings of work, while walking three and striking out only two.
Lincecum’s velocity and command were issues once again. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Lincecum struggled to reach 90 mph on the radar gun with his fastball, and the command issues may have something to do with lack of arm strength or changes to Lincecum’s mechanics as he tries to regain his power.
I don’t know entirely what to make of it. According to the San Jose Mercury News, in his last start against the Mets, in which he pitched a complete game shutout, Lincecum’s first three fastballs hit 95 mph, and in the late innings his fastball was sitting on 92-93 mph. That’s exactly where Lincecum was last year when he won his second Cy Young Award.
However, other commentators have noted Lincecum’s loss of velocity in games he pitched earlier this year. On the other hand, while Lincecum’s strikeout rate is down from last season, he still has more Ks than IP so far this season (138 Ks in 130.1 IP).
Because of his slight stature, everyone is waiting for Lincecum’s arm to fall off, particularly after throwing just over 450 innings in 2008 and 2009 combined. Lincecum’s 2010 numbers are still too good for anyone to panic, but there have indeed been some worrying signs this year.
We’ll have to see if it's just temporary arm fatigue, adjustments the National League has made to his pitching, or if serious cracks are developing in the Freak’s heralded right arm. Obviously, I’m hoping its the former and not the latter.