Tim Lincecum’s resurgence continued Thursday, as the two-time Cy Young Award winner limited the Brewers to one hit over eight scoreless innings and struck out eight in a victory.
Lincecum was shelled for eight runs in the start after his 148-pitch no-hitter last month, but he’s allowed just three runs in 22 innings since. In his last six outings, he’s turned in five quality starts and amassed a 47/10 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings.
That stretch has lowered Lincecum’s ERA from 4.66 to 4.18. The thinking was a couple of weeks ago that the Giants didn’t need to deal Lincecum before the trade deadline because he’d clear waivers and could still be part of an August deal. That now seems highly unlikely; Lincecum is a free agent at season’s end, so money isn’t a huge issue.
On the plus side for the Giants, as long as Lincecum finishes strong, there won’t be any reason to be nervous about making him a qualifying offer and at least securing a draft pick if he bolts. The Giants could still trade Lincecum to the team with the worst record that claims him — the Nationals would seem to be the most likely option there or maybe the Diamondbacks if the Nats pass — but he’ll most likely finish the season in San Francisco.
Chase Utley celebrated his new contract tonight by barreling over Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro in a collision at home plate, resulting in an out for the Phillies and a trip to the hospital with at least a leg injury for Navarro.
Here’s the GIF of the collision from our own Bill Baer:
Utley made as if he were going to slide into home plate on the play, only to pull a changeup at the last second and barrel into Navarro, shoulder first. In Utley’s defense, Navarro had set up on the plate before receiving the throw, inviting the collision. Utley, though, did have an opening with which to slide between Navarro’s legs. Instead of taking it, he decided to risk injury to both himself and Navarro.
Of course, Utley can afford to do that, considering he’s made $85 million in his career and he just today signed a $27 million deal that takes him through 2015. Navarro is a free agent at season’s end, and if he misses the rest of the year, he could lose a couple of million dollars on his next contract. With the way he’s played this year — he entered the night with a .289/.363/.500 line and nine homers in 152 at-bats — he could have been setting himself up for a two-year contract worth $5 million-$6 million this winter.
Never has a team fallen so far, so rapidly.
Jeff Francoeur is making his third career start in center field as the Giants take on the Brewers in San Francisco tonight. His other two both came last year with the Royals, when he played 16 innings and somehow never had a ball hit his way. Or, at least, was never able to get in the way of all hit in his general direction.
Francoeur also played three innings in center field for the Braves in 2006, and he actually did handle a chance flawlessly, at least according to his career stats. Visual evidence of this phenomenon has long since disappeared.
What’s doubly amazing is that Francoeur is playing center field with a right-hander starting against the Giants tonight. Maybe one could justify getting his bat in there against a lefty, but Francoeur has typically been significantly worse against right-handers in his career. Just not this year, when he’s been equally abysmal against everyone (.560 OPS against righties, .565 OPS against lefties).
Alongside Francoeur tonight will be Roger Kieschnick in left and Hunter Pence in right. Kieschnick never played an inning of center field in the minors, which apparently ruled him out. Pence started 95 games in center for the Astros in 2007, but he’s played exclusively in right field since. He’d still be a better option than Francoeur in center, but at AT&T Park, many believe it’s harder to play right than center.
Francoeur is hitting .234/.250/.277 with no homers and four RBI in 47 at-bats since being called up by the Giants. He’s scored one run in 15 games.