The San Francisco Giants know they are going to be participating in the postseason for the first time since their World Series win two years ago. Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres know they won’t be in the playoffs as their postseason drought extends to six years.
Nonetheless, there is a bit of intrigue attached to the conclusion of this weekend’s three-game series at Petco Park on Padres’ Fan Appreciation Day.
The finale of this weekend set on Sunday features an interesting pitching duel between a pair of decorated hurlers who have battled inconsistency this season. For Bruce Bochy’s Giants, it will be former two-time Cy young winner Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.15 ERA) on the mound, while Bud Black’s Padres counter with Edinson Volquez (11-11, 4.13 ERA). Don Best is sending this matchup out as a pick 'em.
First pitch at Petco Park on Sunday will be at 4:05 p.m. (ET). Those with the MLB TV package will be spoiled for choice with either the legendary Dick Enberg at the microphone for FOX Sports San Diego, or the entertaining Duane Kuiper-Mike Krukow combo on Comcast Sports Bay Area.
Although the Giants have long since clinched the NL West, there remains a bit of urgency in this final handful of regular-season games as they try to improve their position in the race for home-field edge in the NL playoffs. Entering the weekend, San Francisco was three games behind Cincinnati and four games behind Washington with just six games to play. Unless the Giants make up the deficit, they won’t have home-field edge when the NLDS commences, likely against either the Nationals or Reds.
Moreover, Sunday’s matchup is an important one for Lincecum, whose inconsistencies suggest he cannot be assured of a spot in Bochy’s postseason rotation. Particularly troubling to Bochy was Lincecum’s last outing on September 25 at home vs. the Diamondbacks when he surrendered seven runs on five hits and four walks in just four innings of work of an eventual 7-2 loss.
Those control issues have recurred throughout the season for Lincecum, who seemed to eradicate the problems during the summer only to be bitten by the “walk bug” again in recent weeks. Lincecum has surrendered 17 free passes in his last four starts covering 22 2/3 IP, raising concerns with Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti that some of the mechanical flaws they identified and earlier adjusted in Linceum’s delivery have indeed resurfaced.
Prior to the loss to Arizona, and despite the recurrence of the walks, Lincecum’s recent efforts had not been too bad, as he had posted a 2.78 ERA in six previous starts, with the Giants winning five of those outings before the loss to the D-backs. But another effort similar to the meltdown last Tuesday vs. Arizona would cause Bochy and Righetti much angst heading into the playoffs.
Some other Lincecum numbers from this season are also discouraging, including a 6.46 ERA on the road. Lincucum was also hit hard the last time he faced San Diego on July 25, allowing five runs and seven hits in just 4 2/3 IP of an eventual 6-3 loss.
Overall, the Giants have lost two of Lincecum’s three starts this season vs. the Padres, though his career stats vs. San Diego (10-5 record, 2.28 ERA) are still very much on the positive side.
Meanwhile, Lincecum’s San Diego counterpart Volquez, though also struggling with control issues earlier this season, has performed with a bit more consistency of late, and was extremely sharp in his last outing, working seven shutout innings last Tuesday vs. the Dodgers in an eventual 2-1 Padres win.
Volquez, who will be making his last start of the 2012 campaign, also (like many Padres pitchers) has fared better at Petco Park than on the road this season, reflected in his 2.89 ERA at home in 2012.
The ex-Red Volquez was also on the mark in his only previous start vs. the Giants this season, holding them to two runs and three hits while striking out eight over a solid seven innings of work on July 24 at AT&T Park, although the bullpen eventually betrayed the Padres in the ninth inning when Joe Thatcher surrendered the winning run in the Giants’ 3-2 win.
Over five starts in his career, Volquez is 2-1 with a 5.54 ERA vs. San Francisco.
As this series concludes, however, it’s worth noting that San Francisco has offered good value on the road in 2012, having stood 43-32 as a visitor entering this weekend set. (Maybe opening the postseason on the road won’t bother Bochy’s team too much.) The Giants had also won 14 of their last 21 at Petco and had not dropped a series in San Diego since April of 2010.
In the five previous series between these teams this season, the Giants had also won two out of three on each occasion.