Last night, Barry Zito pitched the last game of his $126-million San Francisco Giants career.
Tonight Tim Lincecum is on the mound, his Giants future uncertain.
I didn’t know either one in their stronger days. I never knew Lincecum as the two-time Cy Young winner, or as the touted prospect. I knew him as a struggling long-haired starter with flashes of his old brilliance, and sometimes with more than that. Nor did I know Zito with the A’s, or when he signed his huge contract; I knew him mostly as a tenuous starter at best, but also as the guy who pitched the game of his life in the NLCS, and the one who started Game 1 of the World Series. I loved them both, the unpredictable madness, the goofy personalities, the disastrous meltdowns, the storybook moments of perfection when they were most needed.
The 2012 playoff run was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. I remember where I was for almost every game. I remember cursing at the grocery store when I saw the alerts for NLDS Game 4, when Zito surrendered a single and three walks in a row. I remember practically falling off my chair during the Jay Bruce vs. Sergio Romo marathon. I remember shouting in disbelief when Barry Zito came back out for the eighth inning in the NLCS throwing a strike to Carlos Beltran. I remember Long Reliever Tim Lincecum doing everything he could to push the team toward a championship.
I saw both of them pitch in person when I visited AT&T Park for the first time. The Giants and the Blue Jays split that series; Zito was okay, but thoroughly overmatched by R.A. Dickey. Lincecum was fantastic.
If this week is a Giants goodbye for both of them, I’m glad I got some of those golden moments, even if I missed so many. It’s been pretty cool.
Entering Game 4, only one postseason game in the previous 15 days had experienced a lead change. And that was a paltry 1-0 early-inning lead. After the final inning of the Nats-Cards division series, nothing mind-searing has happened. Of fine games, there were plenty. But the kind of screaming hair-pulling madness that consumes many postseasons was absent. It wasn’t until this final game that we saw a game sway to and fro — the Giants leading 1-0, trailing 2-1, leading, 3-2, then being tied at 3 before finally winning. In doing so, they ended one of the most remarkable, and perhaps least appreciated, October title runs in baseball history. After escaping elimination six times, they swept the sweepers.
Case, and season closed.