With all eyes on Tim Lincecum, it was the Giants relievers who stole the show Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The bullpen’s performance was so good in San Francisco’s 5-3 win over the Dodgers, they even averted disaster after an abysmal outing by Jose Mijares. And the final four arms the Giants threw at the Dodgers were sensational.
In relief of Mijares in the sixth, George Kontos persevered against slugger Matt Kemp to induce a groundball double play. Then Javier Lopez ripped through cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez to extinguish the rally. In the ninth, Sergio Romo showed his usual dynamic stuff, setting down the side in order to earn his second save in as many days.
However, it was Chad Gaudin who emerged as the superstar of Wednesday night’s rubber match. The newest Giants pitcher established himself about as effectively and efficiently as possible. The multipurpose reliever – signed as a minor-league free agent over the offseason – entered his first game as a Giant with a runner on second and no outs in the seventh. Gaudin didn’t so much as allow the runner to advance to third.
Offsetting a 93 mph with a sharp slider, Gaudin retired six of the seven batters he faced. He induced three pop outs to shut down the Dodgers threat in the seventh. After receiving help from shortstop Brandon Crawford, who turned in a sweet barehanded play in the eighth, Gaudin allowed a single to pinch hitter Nick Punto. But the right-hander bounced back, saving his best slider of the night to ring up Kemp to end the threat.
To call Gaudin a journeyman pitcher may be an understatement. Originally a 34th round draft pick out of high school by Tampa Bay in 2001, he fast-tracked to the big leagues in just two years, debuting as a 20-year-old with the Devil Rays in 2003. Over the course of 10 years, Gaudin pitched with eight teams, including two stints with Oakland, where he made 34 starts to go 11-13 in 2007.
Still just 30, Gaudin is now with his ninth major league team, and is the only new face on the Giants’ pitching staff – replacing veteran Guillermo Mota, who left as a free agent and is all but retired, having yet to sign with a new organization.
Not to overlook the adventurous starting effort by Lincecum. While lasting just five innings in lieu of issuing seven walks, he only allowed two runs (neither earned) on three hits to tally his first win of the season.
It’s difficult to diagnose Lincecum’s outing, because one never knows what The Kid is thinking. Amid such outings, one is left to wonder if he has simply spent too much time palling around with Barry Zito. Indeed, Lincecum can appear every bit as aloof as the most eccentric of left-handers.
Wednesday night’s performance was as befuddling as they get. Was he off his game? Was he scuffling through mechanics? Was he just horsing around? One can never tell with Lincecum. That’s part of what makes him great – how he keeps the baseball world wanting more – because it seems he is constantly one pitch away from regaining his Cy Young magic.
Or perhaps he’s never lost the magic. Maybe it’s just that Lincecum inspires the stuff of Cy Young Awards in every Giants pitcher.