Tim Lincecum is 5-0 in recent starts against the Oakland Athletics.
Taking two of three from the Diamondbacks has done much to quell the grumbling about the recent performance of the Giants.
They've got a little more breathing room after showing that they are still the best team in the division. Pablo Sandoval's return from the disabled list has stabilized a lineup that was reeling in the absence of Buster Posey. It feels like they are just one thing away from quieting all concerns for the time being.
That missing thing would be a strong start by Tim Lincecum. No matter how good the bullpen performs or how much the offense improves, it is impossible to conjure up a path to another memorable October without the Freak leading the way. He's more than just the ace of the staff, he is the figurehead of the franchise built around his slender shoulders and that's why Friday night is a rather big start for him.
Lincecum has had three straight bad outings culminating in Saturday's disaster against the Reds when he allowed seven runs and struck out just one batter in four innings. He's been walking too many hitters, letting too many hitters off the hook and, generally, acting nothing like the confident pitcher we know and love.
We all know that Lincecum has been down this road before. Last summer saw a swoon that had people harboring the same fears about his right arm before he came back to overwhelm the Braves, Phillies and Rangers en route to a ring. There's every reason to believe he can break this spell, we just need to see some kind of sign that all's still well with the Giants' leading man.
Thank goodness for the schedulemakers. They are the ones responsible for putting the A's in the opposite dugout this weekend and there could be no greater gift for a struggling Freak.
He's 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA against the A's in his career with three complete games. This year's offensively challenged Oaklandites were clueless against him last month in the first installment of the Bay Bridge Series and mustered just three hits in a shutout loss. Lincecum's ERA has ballooned from 2.06 to 3.41 since that start so the A's are just the thing to get the train back on track.
Unless, of course, there's something more serious afoot. A bad performance against Oakland doesn't necessarily indicate such a problem, but it will certainly create a lot more ulcers around the city all the same. The mixture of Lincecum's historical brilliance and the A's ineptitude at the plate is a perfect storm for a pitcher in need of a literal and figurative shot in the arm.
One way or the other, Lincecum's going to be the headline on Saturday morning. For the sake of the Giants, it had better be a positive story.