Last year in San Francisco, the Nationals entered the second game of a series with the unenviable task of trying to beat Giants' starter Tim Lincecum to halt a skid that had resulted in eight losses in their last 11 games. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had never allowed more than two runs against him, and they'd lost a winnable game against Todd Wellemeyer the night before.
But Lincecum was struggling like he never had against the Nationals, and they knocked him around for six runs in 4 1/3 innings.
"Even when he's not good, he's still good," shortstop Ian Desmond said at the time. "Even when he's the worst he's ever been, he's still really good. He's got electric stuff. I think tonight, the difference was he couldn't go electric fastball, electric curveball, electric changeup. He wasn't on you the whole time. There was a little break in between, like, 'OK, here's a fastball, here's one way out of the zone,' and got you back into the hitters' count."
The Nationals' first meeting with Lincecum since that victory comes in circumstances that aren't all that different. Even with last night's win, they've lost six of nine, and tonight begins a 13-game stretch against the world champions, the team that won the last two NL pennants before the Giants (the Phillies), last year's wild card winner (the Braves) and the team that gives the Nationals more trouble than any other (the Marlins).
If the Nationals have any more magic against Lincecum, now wouldn't be a bad time for it.
Three of the hitters that had the best games against Lincecum last year - Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Adam Kennedy - are all gone. But Jayson Werth has fared well against the right-hander, homering off him once in last year's NLCS and once in 2009. Including his postseason numbers, he's 4-for-15 with a pair of homers against Lincecum and a 1.020 OPS.
The Giants, though, have plenty of hitters with strong numbers against Nationals starter Jason Marquis; eight of their hitters have faced him at least six times, and five have OPSes of 1.000 or more.
The four-game series begins at 7:05 tonight at Nationals Park. The game will be televised on MASN HD.