SAN FRANCISCO -- The first Major League pitch Tim Lincecum threw was a stunning 97 mph strike that Jimmy Rollins watched sail by, and for a moment, it seemed the kid might live up to the impossible hype of his 0.29 Triple-A ERA. But Rollins didn't miss the next strike. Neither did the Phillies' second batter, Shane Victorino, who welcomed Lincecum to the big leagues with a two-run homer in Philadelphia's 8-5 win over the Giants. The homer brought home more runs than Lincecum had allowed in his five Triple-A starts combined, but Lincecum calmly returned to the mound and retired the side on punchouts.
"I know I didn't have the best stuff out there, but I battled and that's what [my teammates] kept saying to me," Lincecum said. It would have been nice for Lincecum, and his teammates, if he had blazed into the bigs with a shutout instead of a no-decision, but all things considered, the 22-year-old's first time pitching in a Major League stadium went well. What should be considered is Lincecum made his debut in front of a nation, facing almost impossible pressure of living up to his 4-0 Fresno record and ridiculously low 0.29 ERA. "I just never really thought about it. I'm not the type of guy who reads my press," Lincecum said. Lincecum said he was a little fidgety in the morning, but calmed down when he got to the field and made it past security without a problem. "I had my bat bag. Maybe I just looked like a bat boy carrying a bunch of bats," Lincecum said. For most of the first inning, Lincecum relied on his fastball, but the right-hander found his curveball in a minimum-batter second. "His stuff is electric and he made a couple mistakes, but he showed what a great arm he's got, and I thought he did a pretty good job," manager Bruce Bochy said. Lincecum gave up another two-run homer in the fourth, giving him four earned runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. But he walked off the field to a standing ovation in the fifth after walking two consecutive batters, Ryan Howard intentionally, and throwing a total of 100 pitches, most in the mid or upper 90s. "He reminds me a lot of Matt Cain when he came into the league. He throws hard and has a good breaking ball," said shortstop Omar Vizquel, who had a front-row seat to Lincecum's debut. Vizquel's own Sunday performance was something to be proud of. His RBI double to center field in the second gave the Giants their only lead of the game and marked Vizquel's 2,500th hit, a feat only 82 other players in Major League history have managed to accomplish. Vizquel was also involved in a controversial fifth-inning rundown when Lincecum caught Victorino off first. Vizquel came in to assist with the pickle and collided with Victorino on the infield grass. Victorino was granted second and Vizquel charged with the error, but there wasn't much else he could have done to get out of the way, short of disappearing. Victorino eventually scored an unearned run tacked onto Lincecum's record. The game was an up-and-down battle for the Giants, who edged back to tie the game in the fifth inning, when Rich Aurilia opened with a double and Ray Durham clocked a single. Durham has hit safely in 26 of his last 30 games. Despite the Giants' loss and the two home runs, Lincecum said he wasn't disappointed with his first start. The experience is not something he'll forget any time soon. "My friends have got this game TiVoed at home, so I'll never be able to forget," Lincecum said, smiling. It's unsure at this point if Lincecum will remain on the team after Russ Ortiz, who's out with right elbow neuritis, is reactivated. "I don't want to get too comfortable here because it's Major League Baseball and everyone's looking for a spot," Lincecum said. Judging by the pitches he threw Sunday, Lincecum won't have a hard time finding one. "This kid has a chance to be real special and we know it; that's why he's here," Bochy said.
Becky Regan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.