Tim Lincecum's rare struggles bring up questions about blisters and cracked nails

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After struggling in a no-decision last week Tim Lincecum took his first loss of the season last night, giving up five or more runs in back-to-back starts for just the second time in his career.
He’d gone 88 starts since those consecutive clunkers in mid-2007 and the loss last night was also the first of Lincecum’s career in the month of May. And for the third straight start he tied a career-high with five walks, which comes after Lincecum walked a grand total of 10 batters in his first seven starts.
After the game Bruce Bochy shot down reports that the two-time Cy Young winner was dealing with a blister, but Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News suggests the manager’s denial “might be a matter of semantics” because Lincecum might be dealing with a cracked nail on the middle finger of his right hand that bothered him during spring training.
It’s obviously a credit to how amazing Lincecum has been that everyone gets worked up by two poor starts in a row, but at the same time it does seem that something is wrong. Baggarly notes that “Lincecum had both hands very conspicuously buried in the pockets of his sweatshirt while he conducted his post-game interview.” He’ll try to get back on track Monday against Colorado and the red hot Ubaldo Jimenez.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.