Tim Lincecum’s Saturday start looked all too familiar to San Francisco Giants fans

If you found yourself concerned after watching Tim Lincecum pitch on Saturday, you weren’t alone.

But don’t count Lincecum or manager Bruce Bochy among the worrisome watchers.

Bochy and The Freak kept their comments and outlook positive after Saturday’s outing against the Oakland A’s. But if you watched the game, those comments sort of felt like putting lipstick on a pig.

“I had some good moments and some bad ones,” Lincecum said. “I still need to try to get my pitch count up. But I am not finishing guys off. I had a good fastball, but it all goes back to location. It’s all a matter of repeating my mechanics.”

The bottom line: Lincecum gave up five runs and six hits and three walks in three-plus innings.

Now, granted, Lincecum left with two runners on base and no outs in the fourth, and those two runners eventually scored without the benefit of hit, one on a wild pitch, the other on a passed ball with Dan Runzler on the mound.

But it doesn’t dismiss this unpleasant stat. Lincecum reached his pitch limit of 80 pitches without retiring a batter in the fourth inning. If this had been a regular-season game and Lincecum were allowed to let his pitch count rise above 100, it’s doubtful he would have been able to get through the fifth inning.

And here’s an odd note: no Giants defender recorded an out or an assist until the final out of the second inning — the 11th batter to face Lincecum. Here’s how his outing went.

FIRST INNING

  • Coco Crisp walks
  • John Jaso strikes out swinging
  • Jed Lowrie strikes out swinging
  • Yoenis Cespedes hits what Lincecum called a “spinning slider” into oblivion for a two-run homer. It may have been a slider, but it looked like a hit-me hanging curveball it had such a hump to it.
  • Seth Smith strikes out swinging

SECOND INNING

  • Josh Donaldson walks
  • Daric Barton walks
  • Eric Sogard singles to center, scoring Donaldson
  • Pitcher Tommy Milone strikes out swinging (but after Lincecum fell behind 2-0 on him)
  • Crisp strikes out swinging
  • Jaso grounds to first

THIRD INNING

  • Lowrie grounds to second
  • Cespedes grounds to first
  • Smith singles to right
  • Donaldson singles to short
  • Barton ground to second

FOURTH INNING

  • Sogard singles to center
  • Milone (THE PITCHER!!!) singles to left
  • Lincecum is relieved by Runzler

Lost in all that were the number of three-ball counts Lincecum had, including a couple that started as 0-2 count. Plus, there were a ton a pitches in the dirt. Giants announcers Jon Miller and Mike Krukow jokingly estimated the number at 30.

“He just never really got in a good rhythm today,” Bochy said. “He had trouble getting the ball where he wanted to. This outing, hopefully he learns from and regroups. He was out of sync, and it was obvious from the start.”

How is it that Lincecum can come out the bullpen last postseason, throw darts and attack hitters like the Freak we all know and love — but when he starts, he “can’t find his rhythm” or struggles with his mechanics?

It makes you wonder if the problem is less mechanical as it is mental.

It seems like Timmy needs to be angry or have a chip on his shoulder to pitch like the Freak of old.

If that’s the case, someone should taunt him while he warms up in the bullpen, or kick his dog, or flush his weed before every start.

Lincecum needs something because Saturday’s start looked eerily like so many of his 2012 starts, leaving his spring ERA at 10.97. Among Giants pitchers this spring, that puts him right behind Yusmeiro Petit, who was designated for assignment last week, and ahead of Ramon Ramirez, who was released on Thursday. Not good company.

Lincecum has never put up stellar spring numbers; that’s his M.O. But the worst spring ERA in six previous big-league spring trainings was 6.94 in 2010. To get this year’s ERA below that, Lincecum would have to throw seven shutout innings in his spring finale.

Bochy said there is no plans to alter Lincecum’s preparation for the season. That means his last preseason start would come next Thursday against these A’s at AT&T Park. It’s also possible that the Giants could keep Lincecum in Arizona, have him pitch in a minor league game and let him work on mechanics under less stressful conditions and with fewer eyes on him.

Barry Zito did that last year when he had a 7.91 spring ERA, and it worked out well for him.

But chances are Lincecum will be on the bump at AT&T on Thursday. Next after that is Game 3 for the 2013 regular season at Dodger Stadium.

Maybe Dodger fans will help us out and piss off Timmy before he pitches.

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