Cam Inman: Tim Lincecum gets a laugh from Philly’s fans

PHILADELPHIA — Phillies fans provided the comic relief Tim

Lincecum needed for Saturday’s tense start to the National League

Championship Series.

Whistles from the sellout crowd of 45,929 serenaded the

Giants’ long-haired ace midway

through the

Giants’ 4-3 victory, and Lincecum

absolutely relished the atmosphere.

“I was kind of laughing about it,” Lincecum said. “Obviously I

can’t not hear it. Whistles are going on when I’m swinging, when

I’m walking back to the dugout. I tried turning it into a funny

situation, a humorous situation.”

The crowd whistled like construction workers ogling a pretty

girl. But underneath those 20-inch strands of black hair is a brain

that allowed Lincecum to stay focused and not blow up on the

biggest stage of his career.

He prevailed in arguably the marquee pitching matchup in recent

postseason memory. He outdueled Roy Halladay, who merely pitched a

no-hitter in the Phillies’ last series opener.

“The situation was probably the most heightened (of his

career),” Lincecum said. “It’s the NLCS, Game 1, against Halladay.

That puts it right on center stage.

“To make it easier for myself, I approach it like any other

game. I wanted to be even keel, be in check with my emotions.”

Leave it to Philadelphia’s fickle fans to lighten the mood with

their silly whistles, which rang out in unison during Lincecum’s

fifth-inning at-bat and continued throughout the next couple

innings.

“I was thinking I must have a really nice butt, because I heard

a lot of (whistles),” Lincecum said with a laugh. “I’ve never been

whistled at that much. The Philly fans must love something about

me.”

They don’t love him anymore. The Phillies are two-time reigning

National League champions, and losing the NLCS opener at Citizens

Bank Park is a stunning blow to their three-peat cause. They had

won their past seven playoff-series openers. Now the

Giants have won seven straight Game

1s.

Lincecum worked seven innings and allowed six hits, including

two home runs that accounted for all the Phillies’ runs. This

certainly was not as easy as Lincecum’s phenomenal playoff debut

against the Atlanta Braves, when he struck out 14 in a two-hit

shutout to open that division series.

“Unlike last outing when I was kind of on cruise mode, today

felt like a work day,” Lincecum said. “Considering I got behind a

lot of guys, I had to make a lot of 2-0 pitches to a lot of good

hitters.”

He staked 2-0 counts to eight of the first 14 batters he faced,

a recipe for disaster. One of those 2-0 serves, to Phils’ catcher

Carlos Ruiz, resulted in a leadoff home run in the bottom of the

third that tied the score at 1 and negated the first of two solo

home runs by Cody Ross.

But Lincecum rose to the occasion, as he’s done so often in his

four-year career.

And he watched with glee from the on-deck circle as Ross batted

in front of him in the eighth spot. Ross’ second home run came in

the fifth, and a two-run rally in the sixth gave Lincecum a 4-1

lead to protect.

“I think he had that swagger before the game started that you

knew he’d be tough,” catcher Buster Posey said.

You knew it wouldn’t be easy. When Jayson Werth took Lincecum

deep for a two-run home run in the sixth, the

Giants’ lead shrank to 4-3. Lincecum

ended that rally by sandwiching strikeouts around a walk to Raul

Ibanez.

But Lincecum’s night was not done. Manager Bruce Bochy allowed

him to bat with one out in the seventh, Lincecum grounded out on

the first pitch and fans’ whistles were cut short.

Lincecum retired all three batters he faced in the seventh and

exited after 113 pitches. He didn’t throw many sliders, estimating

that pitch produced only one of his eight strikeouts. Nor did he

complain about a blister on his middle finger: “No issue. We’re

good.”

Aesthetically, these weren’t the best seven innings Lincecum

ever pitched. But they meant the most.

“It’s a gutty effort,” Bochy said. “He got in some jams and made

pitches when he had to. I mean, that’s a tough lineup.”

That was a tough crowd, too.

“You’re fighting more than just the Philly team. It turns into

the whole Philly atmosphere,” Lincecum said. “You know you’re going

to get that coming in here. It just makes the environment that much

more fun, that much more special, and a lot more pressure.”

It was a special night indeed. Cue the sound of a happy

Giants fan whistling down the

street.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com .