Gigantic caveat for this entire post about the Giants starting pitching staff struggling: it's only spring training. The games don't count. The earned runs aren't really real. And in four days, this discussion may seem silly and overblown.
But it's worth noting: the Giants starting pitching staff is really struggling as of late.
Lincecum lasted five innings, giving up 11 hits, six earned runs (including two homers), while walking one and striking out three. Lincecum struggled from the get-go, too, needing a first-inning double play to really avoid a nightmarish start to the game.
Much like Madison Bumgarner, Lincecum seemed to become a little distracted by some shoddy umpiring early in the game. Bumgarner, in fact, later admitted he was distracted by the calls when he got shelled on Friday.)
The Freak, however, didn't blame anyone other than himself for his last two poor performances on the mound.
"Obviously, it didn't end so well the last two outings," Lincecum said. "You try not to take too much out of the results down here. I'm glad I got my pitch count up to 90. I got my bunt down. That's another positive. I threw good pitches here and there. I missed when it counted. That's going to be there or not when the season starts."
He also pointed out that -- unlike in years past -- he feels physically ready to roll.
"My arm feels ready," Lincecum said. "It will be nice to get into games that actually matter. Spring training is always long, and you get antsy for the regular season. The antsiness caught up with me a little faster this year."
Jonathan Sanchez, who suffered his first loss of the spring on Sunday against the Royals, was optimistic as well, despite giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits, with a walk and four strikeouts over 5.1 innings.
"I made one bad pitch, the home run, that was it," Sanchez said. "Everything else was good. I was down in the zone. My breaking pitch was good. The split was working."
Those outings -- the one bad pitch ones -- happen a lot. And there's not much from Sanchez' spring that suggests he's prepared to do anything other than succeed in 2011.
He's having the best preseason of his career thus far, and prior to the Royals knocking him around a bit on Sunday, Sanchez hadn't allowed more than a single earned run in any outing, while piling up a strikeout per inning.
Sanchez is also the best-performing pitcher in the rotation through the team's spring training, but his struggles Sunday are indicative of the nasty streak the Giants are currently on: 3-7 in their last 10 games, after beginning spring training as the hottest team in baseball.
During that streak, Giants starters have thrown 35.2 innings, allowed 54 hits, 31 earned runs, issued 10 walks, struck out 26 batters and coughed up six home runs.
Yes, that counts a start by Jeff Suppan, but it was actually a decent one, and don't forget that Barry Zito's the guy who's helping these stats seem decently respectable. (If an 8.72 ERA can be respectable anyway.)
The good news is the gopher balls are fairly minimal, and 10 walks isn't exactly devastating -- at least the starters are just getting knocked around. Instead of, you know, letting batters on base for free.
Granted, this skid, and the Giants pitching throughout it, counts about as much as the hot streak -- read: not much in the grand scheme of things -- but it's impossible to entirely discount the struggles from the team's starters with the regular season just a few days away.