Which starter should the Giants throw in Game 1?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum in the 2nd inning during the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, on October 21, 2010. UPI/ Bob Larson Photo via Newscom

Tim Lincecum says he fully expects to start in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night against the Rangers. But after pitching in the 8th inning Saturday night against the Phillies in Game 6 of the NLCS, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy has a tougher decision than people think.

By the time Wednesday rolls around, Matt Cain will have had a full week of rest after pitching in Game 3 of the NCLS last Tuesday. If the Giants were to throw him Game 1 of the Fall Classic, that would give Lincecum four days of rest if the Giants wanted to start him Game 2 on Thursday (and why wouldn’t they?).

But that would mean the Giants wouldn’t have their ace in Games 4 and 7 if they were facing an elimination game. If possible, clubs always want to throw their best pitcher Game 1, so that if they needed him later in the series he would be available. Lincecum only threw 16 pitches on Saturday and while he would be working on only three days rest, he should be fine to pitch the opening game.

That said, it’s not like Cain can’t get the job done. He’s proven to be one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball and after the Giants burned through their bullpen Saturday night thanks to Jonathan Sanchez’s dud performance (he lasted only two innings before being pulled), they could use a bull like Cain to throw seven or eight innings.

But it all comes back to throwing your ace in Game 1, which is why I think Bochy will inevitably tab Lincecum as his starter. If the Rangers pound him, then so be it. But the Giants need to have their ace available later in the series if need be. Guys can rest in December.

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