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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maybe next group hug between L.A. and S.F. won't be as community oriented

Under the unwritten baseball guidelines for settling scores, illogical as they seem to be, Ted Lilly "had" to retaliate for Tim Lincecum's errant fastballs that speared Juan Uribe on two separate occasions.

So, he plunked the Giants' Buster Posey twice in Wednesday night's game, leading to a warning to both teams from home plate umpire Greg Gibson -- and adding hot ember to the rivalry only two days after the two teams had held a group hug on the mound to tell fans to keep things respectful (in light of the senseless beating of a Giants fan).

For the record, Posey should be thankful to the Dodgers that they sent out Lilly to do the deed, his 84 MPH fastball far preferrable to a 95 MPH from, say, lefty Clayton Kershaw.

If Lincecum had hit Uribe just the once, nothing would have come of it, even though Uribe was sidelined for three games. But after a second plunking, the Dodgers had little choice but to return the favor.

On the face of things, Lincecum had little reason to hit Uribe. In the first game, on March 31, Lincecum was in the middle of a pitching duel with Kershaw, a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the sixth, and he was in a bit of a two-out jam: runners on first and second. Hitting Uribe would load the bases, with the powerful Rod Barajas on deck. Maybe he preferred to face Barajas than an ex-teammate he knew had the penchant for big hits. Either way, hitting Uribe led to the first run of the game (Matt Kemp scoring on a bad pickoff attempt by Posey).

At the time, Uribe stared Lincecum down, as if he thought there was intent. Could there have been some? Sure. Lincecum may have wanted to send a message that they were no longer dugout mates, that he despised Uribe for abandoning the Giants and signing up with the hated Dodgers. He could have done that in the second and fourth innings, in earlier Uribe at bats, though Uribe was leading off in both innings.

When Lincecum hit Uribe for a second time, in Tuesday's 5-4 Giants' win, there was little reason to be wantonly wild. The Giants were clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth, runners were on first and second, and hitting Uribe would load the bases. Why would Lincecum want to push the tying run to third and put the go-ahead run into scoring position?

Maybe he wanted to face Barajas, who was 0-for-2 against him in the game, though it's doubtful. The Dodger catcher had two hard-hit line drives off of Lincecum in the March 31 game, and has hurt the Giants with the long ball.

Uribe had earlier doubled, exacting a small measure of revenge, but there was little upside to hitting Uribe in this spot. Unless Lincecum knew, that at 115 pitches, he was done and he may as well inflict a little more pain on Uribe on his way out. And maybe Lincecum had supreme confidence that Guillermo Mota could escape the bases loaded jam unscathed (which he did).

And maybe Ted Lilly had just wanted to stay in on Posey's hands and the pitch just got away from him. Twice.

And maybe, when the two renew hostilities on May 18 at Chavez Ravine, the next group hug between Giants and Dodgers won't be as community oriented.

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