Billy Hamilton causes Tim Lincecum to lose focus, game

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Only three Giants pitchers have an ERA over 4.00. One of them is not like the others.

Yusmeiro Petit’s ERA is 4.60, but he’s already saved the Giants’ bacon multiple times. David Huff has the worst ERA on the team at 6.30, but there’s a reason why the Yankees sold him to the Giants for a relative pittance – especially compared to what they’re paying Tim Lincecum.

[RELATED: Instant Replay: Lincecum roughed up by Reds, Giants lose 8-3]

Lincecum’s ERA is 5.01 after allowing eight earned runs over 4.1 innings in Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Reds. That’s not exactly what the Giants were hoping for when they gave him $35 million over two seasons.

“Just a tough day for Timmy. He made some mistakes early. He looked like he got in a pretty good zone there. In the fifth he got the ball up again,” Bruce Bochy told reporters.

“I thought Timmy was going to regroup and get us somewhat deeper in the game.”

That’s the Lincecum the Giants paid for, an unpredictable starter whose best trait at this stage of his career is probably durability.

His stuff isn’t what it once was, but that’s not his biggest problem. Command isn’t even the greatest concern, even though he’s back to walking batters at a high rate.

Lincecum can handle the pressure of postseason play. He can still strike hitters out. Yet he still hasn’t developed any sort of coping mechanism to keep regular season innings from spiraling out of control when something gets under his skin.

Tuesday’s game was an excellent example. It’s not a coincidence that he split those eight runs equally among the first and fifth innings, the innings Billy Hamilton led off and reached base.

“Hamilton’s a big part of their offense, and him getting on two out of three times against me kind of flustered me on timing to the plate. I let it get to me in those two big innings,” Lincecum said.

A pitcher with Lincecum’s credentials should be able to shake off obstacles. Allowing a hit to the fastest man in baseball or getting too sweaty shouldn’t mean he automatically loses a feel for his mechanics or forgets to hold base runners.

He’ll probably never again be the Cy Young dynamo that made each fifth day a holiday in San Francisco, but the Giants believe he’s better than what he’s shown.

“Sure, he’s walked some guys, but if you look at his recent work it’s been pretty good. Look at what our record is with him pitching,” Bochy said.

“This is a guy that set the bar extremely high. He’s a little different pitcher now, but he’s shown what he can do. I hope after today he gets back on that run that he had in more recent starts before tonight.”

The Giants’ record with Lincecum is 8-4 after Tuesday’s loss, and his ERA was under 3.00 in May. So they feel like there’s time to let him figure things out, especially considering Tim Hudson’s dominance, the reemergence of Ryan Vogelsong, and the team’s win-loss record.

Besides the lack of focus, the maddening thing for everyone involved is that Lincecum has no idea who he is.

He came out of Spring Training with plans to pitch to contact. Then he gave up 36 hits and six home runs in April while only walking six in 25.2 innings. He averaged just over five innings per start that month with an ERA of 5.96.

In May he walked 22 in 34.2 innings, but allowed far fewer runs, hits and home runs.

Things seemed to be looking up. Then Hamilton gets in his head and he finds it hard to do anything besides dwell on the negative.

That’s never a good idea in a sport where failure is a constant, even for the best players.

“It’s kind of hard not to think about the bad stuff that goes on and stuff that you’ve let happen and what you need to do to change that,” said Lincecum.

“I think a lot of people think there’s a big space between being good and not being good. In this game it’s a small factor of space to make up. I’ve just got to look for that.”

Ketel Marte shut down with back injury

Ketel Marte
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With just over a week left in the regular season, the Diamondbacks have elected to shut down infielder/outfielder Ketel Marte. Marte has been dealing with some lower back inflammation and stiffness over the last few days; on Friday, the team revealed that he was diagnosed with a stress reaction as well.

It doesn’t look as though the injury will compromise Marte’s 2020 campaign, but as Craig noted on Wednesday, his absence will likely have some effect on his NL MVP candidacy. The 25-year-old will wrap his first All-Star season with a .329/.389/.592 batting line, 32 home runs, a .981 OPS, and a staggering, career-best 7.1 fWAR through 628 plate appearances.

Marte told reporters Thursday that the back pain had been an issue “for the past two months,” though he didn’t comment on the severity of the injury. Despite his ability to play through the pain since July, the issue has clearly escalated in the last week or so. Although the loss of their most valuable contributor may have a negative impact on the D-backs’ chances of competing in the postseason, it’s undeniably a wise move to let Marte recuperate rather than pushing him to play for another week and running the risk of further injury.

Entering Friday’s series against the Padres — their last road series of the regular season — Arizona still has a sizable gap to close in order to earn one of two NL wild card spots. They’re five games out of postseason contention, with the Nationals, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, and Phillies ahead of them.