Lincecum has taken Giant step forward

Eric Hartline/US Presswire

Tim Lincecum's changeup has been one key to his effectiveness this postseason.

Tim Lincecum has allowed one run and three hits in 8⅓ innings in three appearances this postseason, with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Those are vintage Lincecum numbers, the kind we saw when he helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in 2010.

The Giants will be hoping for that kind of effort from Lincecum in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series in their bid to help the Giants even the series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The postseason has been the time in which Lincecum is at his best. He is 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 45⅓ innings pitched in nine postseason appearances, including five starts.

He is one of four pitchers who have pitched at least 40 postseason innings and averaged at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings. The other three are Brad Lidge, Bob Gibson and Jeff Nelson.

Lincecum's changeup has been his money pitch in these relief efforts. He has thrown it 35 percent of the time this postseason, nearly twice as often as he did in the regular season.

Lincecum has thrown 27 of 36 changeups for strikes, netting 11 outs without allowing a hit. In the regular season, opponents hit .264 in at-bats that ended with a Lincecum changeup.

Lincecum's Matchup to Watch

Whether Carlos Beltran plays is a big deal for the Cardinals regardless, but it's particularly important given that he has a very good history against Lincecum.

Beltran is 7-for-14 with six walks against Lincecum. His .500/.650/.929 slashline is the best (in all three categories) for any hitter who has at least 20 plate appearances against the righty.

Adam Wainwright's Matchups to Watch

Adam Wainwright will try to bounce back from his awful performance in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, when he spotted the Washington Nationals a 6-0 lead by the third inning.

That was a day when Wainwright had arguably the least-effective fastball of his career. He threw 26 fastballs, and the Nationals pummeled them. They had twice as many extra-base hits against Wainwright's heater (four) as outs (two).

What was notable was that he averaged nearly 91 mph with the pitch, his third-best average fastball velocity of the season.

The key stat for Wainwright in Game 4 is that the hitters on the Giants postseason roster have only one home run in 158 career at-bats against him.

That homer was hit by Hunter Pence in 2008. But Pence, who had good numbers against Wainwright early in his career, is 2-for-12 against him over the past two seasons.

Pence has had a rough postseason. He is 5-for-31 with zero extra-base hits, and teams have stuck to a game plan of pitching Pence away. Of the 111 pitches he has seen this postseason, 68 have been on the outside edge (outer-third) or off the outside corner.

He has also struggled against breaking balls. Pence is hitless against the 40 breaking pitches he has seen this postseason, with eight outs.

Freese tags opponents at home

Cardinals third baseman David Freese enters with a 12-game postseason hitting streak in games played at Busch Stadium. He is hitting .475 with 12 RBIs at home for his career in the postseason, including a two-hit effort in Game 3.