During yesterday afternoon's Giants-Dodgers tilt, Tim Lincecum was cruising through eight innings of two-hit, one-run ball and entered the final frame having thrown 103 pitches. Tim has topped 120 pitches only twice this season so if he got into any trouble in the ninth, I wouldn't have been surprised to see him pulled in favor of closer Brian Wilson.
Thanks to a blown call by umpire Gary Darling, though, Lincecum did get in trouble. With one out, Darling called Rafael Furcal safe at first on an apparent infield single. Lincecum was visibly irked and could be seen muttering expletives into his glove on the mound. Fella ended up allowing a 415 foot fly out to deep center field by Russell Martin that went so deep, it allowed Furcal to tag up to second base.
This was certainly time for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to pull Lincecum; he had reached 116 pitches, was flummoxed by a bad call, and nearly gave up the farm on a long fly.
But Bruce Bochy was nowhere to be found. The big Frenchman had been ejected in the first inning for arguing what he thought was a bad call by first base umpire Gary Darling on a pickoff attempt of Manny Ramirez. But replay showed that Manny slid under the tag and Bochy was basically arguing for arguments sake; it's almost like he wanted to watch Lincecum's start from a comfy chair in the clubhouse.
No matter, bench coach Ron Wotus knows the score and would take over control of the game for San Fran. And he did. Right until he got ejected too, for arguing an incorrect call in the ninth inning, this one on that infield single by Furcal that proved to be Lincecum's breaking point. Third base coach Tim Flannery took over at that point and deserves the blame for not pulling Lincecum after the kid gave up the long fly out.
Tim Lincecum is a good kid and a real talented pitcher, but sometimes, even the Freak needs to be pulled in favor of the team's chosen closer, especially when Tim's pitch count starts entering abuse territory. Yes, Brian Wilson has blown a game a month this season but he's also recorded 28 saves and had a fresh arm with a tidy fastball. Surely, my tut-tut hindsight is aided somewhat by the fact that Lincecum gave up the game-tying single to Andre Ethier four pitches after the Martin fly out, but I'm not here to fix history.
I'm here to tell Bruce Bochy to keep his charges in line and know when to keep the starter in and when to pull him. And I'm here to tell Ron Wotus to take a chill pill and realize that baseball coaches do not have little red flags that allow them to call for instant replay. Sometimes, it's better to send Dave Righetti out to the mound to calm your flustered ace.