The San Francisco Giants begin their second-to-last regular season series tonight. The opposition is the Arizona Diamondbacks and the series precedes the biggest series of the season – three games against the San Diego Padres (whom they currently hold a one game lead on) that might very well decide who advances to the postseason and who does not. Today, the Giants swapped Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum’s starting assignments.
Lincecum will now pitch on Wednesday night while Bumgarner assumes his spot on Thursday. The move keeps Lincecum on full rest and allows him to pitch on Monday if required. Monday is important, as it would be day of a hypothetical game 163 – i.e. a tiebreaker between (presumably) the Giants and Padres. On the other hand, if the Giants find themselves needing to win on Sunday in order to reach the postseason, then Lincecum could come back on short rest in order to ensure their best chance at victory.
Pushing Lincecum back one day, in order to start on Friday night, might seem like an attractive alternative, but clearly, the key here is squeezing two more Lincecum appearances into the season. The Giants will not throw slop against the Padres, either, since their rotation members not named Tim are having an amazing month as well. Assuming no further changes, Barry Zito will open the series against the Friars, with the ever impressive Matt Cain going on Saturday, and then Jonathan Sanchez closing the regular season.
The Padres, meanwhile, will counter with Clayton Richard against Zito, Tim Stauffer, and staff ace Mat Latos going on Sunday. Chris Young would be in line for Monday’s start, if it comes down to that, although one would have to believe Jon Garland would get the call instead. While their ERA are nearly identical (Lincecum sits at 3.51, Garland at 3.58) the Giants would have the edge there, as Lincecum’s 3.24 xFIP is considerably superior to Garland’s 4.42.