PHOENIX — Asked for the umpteenth time Friday afternoon why first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has so much success against Giants starter Tim Lincecum, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson initially passed on the question.
"I don’t wanna jinx him," Gibson joked. "Can I talk about it later?"
Gibson eventually offered his insight anyway: "I can’t explain it any more than you can," he said. And there was no jinx, as Goldschmidt had another strong night against the former Cy Young winner he has tormented since his second day in the big leagues.
In the D-backs’ 4-1 win over the Giants, Goldschmidt went 2 for 2 with a double and two runs against Lincecum, raising his career batting average against the right-hander to .577 (15 for 26).
"I don’t know what to say about it," Gibson said after the game. "Goldy’s consistent."
There’s a case to be made Lincecum actually won this round. He didn’t give up a home run to Goldschmidt as he had in their previous two meetings this season, though Goldschmidt’s double came awfully close to getting over the left-field wall. But considering Goldschmidt raised his batting average against Lincecum by 35 points, the nod goes to Goldschmidt again.
Despite success, the Goldschmidt vs. Lincecum narrative makes Goldschmidt uncomfortable. The humble superstar never enjoys discussing his own achievements, but he seems especially embarrassed discussing his dominance of Lincecum.
By now, Goldschmidt knows to expect the questions. He didn’t seem eager to answer them Friday but of course did.
"I don’t know," Goldschmidt said. "I got some pitches to hit tonight. Both pitches were kind of up in the zone over the middle of the plate. Fortunately I was able to get those. I think that double was just a little bit out of (Michael) Morse’s reach, so I got lucky right there. I mean, I don’t know. I just try to have good at-bats.
"I know I’ve had success, but that can change at any second."
If history is any indication, this won’t be the last time Goldschmidt addresses his success against Lincecum. That history began on Goldschmidt’s second day in the majors in 2011, when he took Lincecum yard for his first career home run.
The six long balls that have followed that first one have made Goldschmidt’s success against Lincecum interesting. His first home run of the 2012 season came off Lincecum, the first of three that year. Then, after a homer-free 2013 season, Goldschmidt hit his first two home runs of 2014 off Lincecum.
Goldschmidt’s hits Friday might have created the most buzz, but they weren’t the difference. Second baseman Aaron Hill drove in two runs on a single and a sacrifice fly and shortstop Chris Owings tripled to score a run. Those efforts backed one of starter Josh Collmenter’s shakier outings, as he lasted just five innings on 109 pitches but limited the damage to one run on four hits and four walks.
As tired as Goldschmidt might be of addressing his track record against Lincecum, it has to be much worse for Lincecum, who has struck Goldschmidt out five times in the 11 times he has retired him.
"He is a pretty patient guy," Lincecum said. "I am not really executing pitches against him, which makes it really tough. That and a combination that he is a .311 hitter."
Goldschmidt is always sure to be complimentary of Lincecum when discussing their meetings. Gibson was the same way Friday
"Lincecum’s throwing the kitchen sink at him," Gibson said. "He’s accomplished a lot, he’s a solid, competitive guy. … He’s not a guy you want to take for granted. I know Goldy’s the same way about it. You just enjoy the success while you can."
Before the game, Gibson reasoned success against a particular pitcher can increase confidence and feel. Sometimes a hitter just sees a pitcher well.
Sometimes, though, baseball just happens a certain way with no explanation.
"I’ve been in situations where everybody was raking a guy and I thought he was the best pitcher in the game," Gibson said.
Goldschmidt offered a similar non-explanation explanation, the same one he had already offered twice this season.
"It’s just one of those things that’s part of the game I guess," Goldschmidt said. "I really can’t explain it."
Major League Baseball’s new rule on home plate collisions was put to the test in the fifth inning Friday. Chris Owings was attempting to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run, but Giants catcher Hector Sanchez stood in the way of home plate. However, he caught the relay from the shortstop before Owings arrived, and an umpire-initiated replay upheld the ruling that Owings was out. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he will seek clarification about the clear path rule but admitted Owings would have been out either way
3 — two-out RBI by the D-backs on Friday, which proved the difference in the game.
The D-backs designated former star closer J.J Putz for assignment Friday, a day after adding the pitcher that might be the team’s closer of the future. Matt Stites made his MLB debut on Thursday, and Gibson said Friday he plans to use the righty anywhere between the sixth and eighth innings.
"He looks like he might have the stuff to be a closer, but there’s a lot more that goes into than just that," Gibson said. "I don’t think I would close him right now. I don’t think he’s ready for that, but he’s certainly got a lot of physical talent."