Tim Lincecum was scratched from scheduled starts against Philadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday while battling a stomach illness. On Thursday, he returned to the mound and had Phillies hitters feeling nauseous. Lincecum went six scoreless innings, striking out six batters and walking four while surrendering three hits. Lincecum's fastball didn't have its typical zip, but he compensated by going to the soft stuff more often.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel summed up Lincecum's stuff, as well as his frustration with his offense:
"Tonight I saw 90 [mph] fastball, 92 at the best," Manuel said. "I saw a good changeup. I saw a breaking ball. I saw a cutter. Good pitching, but at the same time we can beat that."
Perhaps still feeling the effects of that stomach bug, Lincecum averaged 91.1 MPH with his fastball on Thursday, compared to his 92.4 MPH overall average this season. He went to that lower-octane heater less often than usual: Lincecum threw 42 fastballs in 101 pitches (41.6 percent), compared to his 55.4 percent average in 2011. Phillies hitters missed just one of the 17 fastballs that they swung at.
With his fastball not fooling hitters and his breaking stuff missing the mark (a little more than half were thrown for strikes), Lincecum called on his changeup often. He threw 33 on Thursday, with excellent results. Philly missed 10 of the 20 changeups swung at, flailing at the pitch as it tumbled out of the strike zone:
Lincecum got four of his Ks with his changeup, all of them swinging. Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley all fell victim to the change.
As his four walks and 11 first-pitch strikes in 25 batters faced suggest, Lincecum wasn't at his best on Thursday. But he adapted his approach, realizing that while his fastball wasn't as nasty as usual, he had a killer changeup that could shut down Phillies hitters.