My first year on the Phillies beat I was standing in the clubhouse before a game. Not far away from me was Adam Eaton, the righthander who spent most of the 2008 season in the rotation but was left off the playoff roster. Eaton was staring up at a TV screen.
"Unhittable," he said.
I looked up. On the screen was Tim Linecum, who the previous season had gone 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 as a rookie for the Giants. I didn't know much about Lincecum at the time. Eaton knew plenty: both were from Washington state.
Needless to say, I quickly became acquainted with the nastiness that is Lincecum's repetoire. I have covered nine games in which the Phillies have faced the righthander, and only once have I seen them score more than two runs against him. As you can see below, Phillies hitters have produced exactly one extra base hit in 20 2/3 innings in their last three starts against Lincecum.
Tonight, they'll make another go of it as Roy Halladay kicks off a 10-game West Coast trip by facing the Freak at ATT Park.
You have to think that Juan Pierre will be leading off tonight, given his 3-for-4 showing against the Mets on Sunday, as well as his lifetime numbers against Lincecum (6-for-12, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 BB). Of course, that would mean sacrificing range and arm strength in San Francisco's spacious outfield. At first base, Laynce Nix is 2-for-6 with a home run and two strikeouts against LIncecum, while John Mayberry Jr. is 0-for-1. None of these players have long enough track records against Lincecum to say anything definitive, but Charlie Manuel often cites pitcher-vs.-batter match-ups when explaining line-up decisions, so we might as well look at them.
The only Phillies regular with a modicum of success against Lincecum is Carlos Ruiz, who is 5-for-18 with two doubles, a home runs and three walks in his career. Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins are a combined 12-for-64 with three doubles, one home run, four walks, and 14 strikeouts. Hunter Pence? 3-for-26, a double, 1 walk and eight strikeouts. Roy Halladay is actually 1-for-3 against Lincecum. So there is that.
Anyway, gametime is set for 10:15 p.m.