SAN FRANCISCO – The last time the San Francisco Giants were in the playoffs, muscle-bound slugger Barry Bonds was the face of the franchise. Now, it’s the skinny, shaggy-haired pitcher full of quirks.
The Freak really showed up on his biggest stage yet.
Tim Lincecum pitched a two-hitter and struck out 14 in a dominating postseason debut, and the Giants scored their only run after a questionable umpiring call to beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in Game 1 of their N.L. division series on Thursday night.
“As far as shutouts go, I think that was up there with my better ones,” said Lincecum, who pitched on seven days’ rest. “I was pretty anxious to get out there a couple days ago. You just have to deal with those extra days.”
The two-time N.L. Cy Young winner pitched a gem, a day after Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history in his first playoff game. Lincecum outdueled playoff veteran Derek Lowe and caught a break, too.
Cody Ross singled in the only run Lincecum needed in the fourth after Buster Posey was called safe by umpire Paul Emmel on a steal of second.
“I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have instant replay right now,” Posey said. “It was a beautiful slide, wasn’t it?”
It was the first career steal for Posey. He appeared to be tagged out by Brooks Conrad on the play but retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox, the all-time leader in ejections, did not argue.
“I saw him safe,” Emmel said. “That’s what I called.”
Lincecum struck out Derrek Lee for the third time to end the 119-pitch masterpiece in 2 hours, 26 minutes. He became the 12th pitcher with 14 or more strikeouts in a postseason game.
This is the pitcher with the unorthodox delivery who doesn’t ice his arm, munches on treats like Philly cheesesteaks or ice cream before starts and is trailed around the clubhouse by his friendly French bulldog, Cy – named for Cy Young.
“That’s one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “What a great job that kid did. He’s tough.”
In a postseason already filled with plenty of stellar pitching, this was the first 1-0 game in the postseason since 2005, when the Chicago White Sox finished off a World Series sweep over Houston.
Game 2 of this best-of-5 series is tonight, with 13-game winner Matt Cain going for the Giants against Tommy Hanson.
Lincecum’s only other complete game this season came in a six-hit shutout of the Mets on July 15. He threw all his pitches effectively, from his off-speed stuff that darted down into the dirt to his power fastball that he blew past hitters high in the zone.
“It kind of progressed as it did. All the pitches were working,” Lincecum said. “It just felt like things were in place.”
Lowe, who won his last five regular-season starts with a 1.17 ERA over that stretch, allowed one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, struck out six and walked four.
Lincecum, still hitting 91 mph on the radar gun in the ninth, became the first pitcher to record 12 strikeouts or more in the playoffs since Roger Clemens had 15 for the New York Yankees against Seattle in the 2000 A.L. championship series.