Bochy, Washington meet again

Bochy, Washington meet again

Bochy, Washington meet again
SAN DIEGO -- The managerial fraternity in the Major Leagues is a tight one. Nobody outside its gate possibly can understand the highs and lows absorbed by these 30 men, creating a bond that, in some cases, becomes a brotherhood.

Watching the 2011 World Series, 12 months after he'd celebrated a triumph with his club at Texas' expense, Giants manager Bruce Bochy suffered right along with Rangers skipper Ron Washington. Good guys hate to see bad things happen to good guys.

They'd been friendly rivals in the 2010 Fall Classic, when San Francisco couldn't have played or pitched any better in claiming five-game verdict to launch a Bay Area party that threatened never to end.

Now here was Bochy a year later, shaking his head in amazement as the Cardinals rallied implausibly to win Game 6 and then seize Game 7. This was a stunning final-round knockout, totally unlike the clean decision of the 2010 Series.

"To go through what he had to go through -- a pitch away, an out away twice -- that was so tough to see," Bochy said on Thursday, his Giants having clubbed the Padres, 8-3, to remain four games behind the Dodgers in the National League West.

"To be that close to winning it all and have it get away like that ... Wash will have to think about that the rest of his life. I know I would. That's a tough thing to have to deal with, extremely tough."

Washington brings his Rangers, leading the American League West, to AT&T Park three times this weekend in Interleague Play, starting Friday night. It's the first time they've engaged one another with meaning since Brian Wilson put away Nelson Cruz for the final out of that 2010 Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"The only time I've thought about it is now, when you brought it up," Tim Lincecum said when asked about seeing Texas again. "Regardless of what happens, we will always have the ring."

The ace of a dynamic staff, guided by rookie catcher Buster Posey, Lincecum won Games 1 and 5 of that World Series. He was at his best in the finale, striking out 10 while giving up just one run and five baserunners in eight innings.

When Wilson handled the last three outs, San Francisco had its first World Series championship.

"When Brian Wilson struck out Cruz on that last pitch ... it was like in-sync fireworks made of people out there [on the infield]," Lincecum said. "It took awhile for it to sink in. The parade lifted it out a little, but it didn't really sink in until we got our rings.

"It's the motivation for everyone. Your ultimate goal is to get to the World Series. Obviously, it was a grind to go through what we did last year with all the injuries. But we're getting closer to what we were."

The irreplaceable piece a year ago was Posey. His horrific collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on May 25 at home plate ended not only Posey's season with complex ankle surgery. For all practical purposes, it ended the Giants' season as well.

Posey is back, in fine form. He showed all of his gifts and tools to the Padres and 22,015 matinee fans in the series finale.

Posey's run-scoring single through the middle jump-started the offense following the first of four hits by Ryan Theriot and a throwing error by starter Jason Marquis.

When Posey unloaded his seventh homer of the season leading off the third, Matt Cain had a 4-0 lead. His defense didn't do him justice, a pair of errors making three third-inning runs unearned, but Cain, as Bochy put it, is "unflappable."

When circumstances go awry, the big guy simply goes to work.

"I don't know many pitchers who can win a game when you make four errors behind him," Bochy said. "That's Matt Cain. He's bull strong with a simple delivery. That's why he's so consistent.

"He's had to reinvent himself. He used to be a power pitcher, 96, 97 [mph] with movement. He came up with a changeup and slider. He keeps his poise out there. He never gets frustrated with teammates or run support."

It used to be Lincecum and Cain. Now it's the other way around. Lincecum is searching for his inner "Freak," trying to summon the unique qualities that made him a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner with his highly individualistic style.

The numbers through 12 starts -- 2-6, 5.83 ERA, 35 walks in 66 1/3 innings -- are hard to process. The strikeouts (72) speak to good stuff, but the rest of it is just not Tim Lincecum.

"On black and white, it looks like that," Lincecum said of his tendency to be undone by one bad inning. "I have to focus on not getting ahead of myself, trying to control one pitch at a time."

Cain, a slam-dunk All-Star, is 7-2, 2.41. Madison Bumgarner is 7-4, 3.26. Friday's starter, Barry Zito -- here's the surprise -- is 5-2, 2.98. Ryan Vogelsong: 4-2, 2.38.

When Lincecum becomes Lincecum again, this rotation will be hard to match. The bullpen, even without Wilson, is deep and solid.

Posey, like Lincecum, never will forget the explosion of sound in Texas that night of Nov. 1, 2010. Unlike Timmy, Buster watched the 2011 World Series, but he hasn't given the Rangers much thought.

"It's hard to empathize when you don't know what it's like until you go through something like that," Posey said. "It doesn't look like they've skipped a beat. They've got a lot of guys who have been around and know how to play the game."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.