It seemed only fitting that San Francisco starting pitcher Tim Lincecum ended the Giants’ 2010 season by allowing just three hits and striking out 10 in their World Series win against the Texas Rangers. After all, it was precision from the mound that brought the crown to the City by the Bay in the first place.
Two years later, it’s that exact tool that the Washington Nationals have counted on all season — strong, stingy pitching. The Nationals can only hope that it’s strong enough to deliver the same outcome this fall.
Before Tuesday’s series-opening game against the Giants at Nationals Park, Washington manager Davey Johnson said he sees the similarities between his squad and its opponent — especially when it comes to the teams’ makeup.
“In this day and time, you have to be pretty good at all aspects of the game,” Johnson said. “But they’ve pretty much gone by the rule of pitching No. 1, and probably pitching No. 2.”
San Francisco ended its world championship season below the National League average in total runs and runs per game. But on the mound, it couldn’t be beat.
The Giants finished with a league-best 3.36 ERA and allowed the fewest number of hits and runs.
“A lot of things went right, but at the end of the day, the thing you could always put your head on the pillow and know you were going to get [was] great pitching,” said Washington outfielder Mark DeRosa, who played for San Francisco in 2010.
“From an offensive standpoint, we had our moments, and guys stepped up huge in the postseason. … But offensively, I think it’s very similar to this team.”
Like those world champion Giants, this Washington team might not be a run-producing machine. But it has learned to win games from the mound.
The Nationals, who have led the NL East since April 9, have allowed the fewest number of hits (591) in the league — 38 fewer than the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington also leads the NL with a 3.20 ERA.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy has taken notice.
“They’re a really good club,” he said. “[They have] great starting pitching, the bullpen has done a great job. … It’s a team that puts runs on the board with good pitching. That’s a nice club to have.”
And Bochy should know. He has a club just like it.
On Sunday, the Giants moved into first place in the NL West and stand 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Dodgers.
Like they did in 2010, the Giants continue to thrive with the help of strong, homegrown pitching. Starters Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner came up through the San Francisco system.
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler have done likewise with Washington.
DeRosa is convinced both teams are on to something.
“It’s about having strong farm systems,” DeRosa said. “I think both [Giants general manager] Brian Sabean and Mike Rizzo will tell you, power pitching is the name of the game.”