San Francisco Giants: Surging Tim Lincecum Once Again Key to SF's Playoff Hopes

Manny RandhawaCorrespondent IIIAugust 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29:  Starting pitcher Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants delivers to a Washington Nationals batter at Nationals Park on April 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Tim Lincecum could very well be the most important San Francisco Giant ever. His amazing ability in spite of his small stature embodies what the Giants are as a whole.

Lincecum sets the tone for this team, and when he's going good, the Giants know they've got a shot.

When the 5'9" Lincecum takes the mound, he brings a completely unique bravado with him, and when he's on, his utter control over opposing hitters is the stuff of legend.

In August 2010, Lincecum had the worst month of his major league career, going 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA. Until then, mentioning "Tim Lincecum" and "7.82 ERA" in the same sentence was nothing short of blasphemous.

And the Giants as a team last August? A record of 13-15, four games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres.

Something happened in September, however, that turned Lincecum and the Giants around.

That month, Lincecum went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, striking out 52 and walking just eight. And the Giants reeled off an 18-8 month to overtake San Diego in the standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

So what does this all mean for the Giants in 2011 as they seek to defend their World Series title?

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 15: Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on July 15, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Tim Lincecum—whether he is conscious of it or not and whether he wants it or not—has the role and responsibility of being the face of the San Francisco Giants franchise, as well as the leader of this injury-stricken, roster-decimated club.

When his teammates watch him take the mound every fifth day, there is part of them that knows that the hope for what has thus far been an exceedingly difficult season is derived from the right arm of No. 55.

While the Giants have been struggling as of late, their sinking ship is suddenly rising back toward the surface, and the storm that was pushing them under is calming.

After a stretch during which the Giants lost eight of nine, San Francisco has since gone 5-5—including a gutsy 7-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night—following two potentially spirit-crushing walk-off losses in a row at Turner Field.

Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum is having one of the best stretches in his career.

In his last 10 starts, Lincecum is 6-3 with a 1.37 ERA, 72 strikeouts and just 27 walks allowed. Over that period, he has lowered his season ERA from 3.16 to 2.58.

If recent history is any indicator and Tim Lincecum continues this dominance through September, setting the tone for the rest of San Francisco's stellar pitching staff, the Giants have a great shot at catching the Arizona Diamondbacks and winning a second consecutive NL West crown.