Vintage Lincecum changes up series

It's been quite some time since Tim Lincecum pitched the way that he did on Wednesday.

Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants forced Game 5 with a rout of the Cincinnati Reds.

Giants Offense in 2012 NLDS

Banished to the bullpen due to his struggles throughout 2012, Lincecum played the biggest role in this game with 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief. With their former ace in vintage form, the Giants bats woke up with a record-setting performance.

Let’s go inside the numbers on their Game 4 win.

How Lincecum Won

Lincecum came out of the bullpen with some of best stuff of the season.

Lincecum’s changeup was his most valuable pitch and he seemed to sense that. He virtually abandoned his curve and slider and threw the changeup 23 times in 55 pitches. That 42 percent usage rate was a season high.

Lincecum's Changeup in Game 3

Lincecum got six outs with his changeup, the biggest of which was his strikeout of Ryan Ludwick to protect a 3-2 lead with two on and two out in the fourth inning.

He struck out two other hitters with the changeup later in the game: Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.

The three strikeouts with the changeup were his most in any game since he had four against the Mets on July 31. In his last three starts, spanning 16 1/3 innings, he totaled three strikeouts with the changeup.

Linecum is the first pitcher to win a postseason game in relief in which he got at least 13 outs while allowing two hits or fewer since Pedro Martinez threw six hitless innings for the 1999 Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Indians.

The last NL pitcher with such a game was another Giant: lefty reliever Joe Price, 25 years ago Thursday in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

A Giant barrage

The Giants had a franchise postseason record eight extra-base hits in Game 4. That was more extra-base hits than they had in any game in 2012.

At the forefront of that was centerfielder Angel Pagan, the first Giants centerfielder with two hits, a home run, and two RBI in a postseason game since Willie Mays in the 1971 NLCS. He was also the first player in Giants history to lead off a postseason game with a home run.

Sandoval vs Out-of-Zone Pitches
Since 2009 (Includes Postseason)

Pagan has nine home runs this season (combining the regular season and postseason). Three have come against the Reds.

Gregor Blanco also snapped a 140 at-bat homerless drought with his second-inning homer.

Blanco had only one home run on the 132 pitches he saw this season that our pitch classification system labeled as “middle-in” but homered on this one against Reds starter Mike Leake to put the Giants ahead.

Pablo Sandoval had a home run, double, single and sacrifice fly, all on pitches out of the strike zone.

Since his first full season in 2009, Sandoval has been among the best bad-ball hitters in baseball, ranking first in hits and second in home runs and batting average on pitches out of the zone.

What’s next?

The Giants and Reds will play a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday for the right to go to the NLCS.

Road Team Won 1st 4 Games
Wild Card Era

The Reds will be playing their first winner-take-all postseason game since Game 7 of the 1975 World Series when they beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 on a 9th-inning hit by Joe Morgan.

The Reds are 3-2 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games, with wins in 1940, 1972, and 1975.

The Giants will be playing their first since Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, a 4-1 loss to the Angels. The Giants were managed by current Reds manager Dusty Baker that season.

The Giants are 1-5 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games. Their lone win was in Game 5 of the 2002 NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.