Walcoff: Lincecum deserves NL Cy Young nod

History isn’t on his side, but it’s time to break new ground. No pitcher on a losing team has ever won a Cy Young Award, but Giants ace Tim Lincecum should be the first. Cleveland Indians southpaw Cliff Lee, who has essentially locked up the award in the American League, could also be added to that list if the Indians finish below .500. The Baseball Writers of America traditionally have honored those who have performed the best with the most on the line.

Even though the Giants’ 24-year-old right-hander hasn’t had to pitch with a playoff berth hanging in the balance, he takes a 17-3 record into tonight’s start in Arizona with a majors-leading 237 strikeouts and a National League-best 2.43 ERA. Even more remarkably, Lincecum has a league-best .850 winning percentage on a team likely headed for a 90-loss season. San Francisco is also averaging a league-low four runs per game and is the only team in baseball that has hit fewer than 100 home runs. So, the baby-faced, floppy-haired ace is pitching under a different kind of pressure called “little margin for error.” Yet every time he takes the mound, it is athletic artistry at its best.

Look for the A’s purge of big-ticket veterans to continue. It seems all but certain free agent-to-be Mark Ellis has played his last game in Oakland. Not only is the 31-year-old second baseman facing offseason shoulder surgery, his current $5 million salary prices him right out of their ’09 budget.

Former closer Huston Street is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time after earning more than $3 million this season. Don’t look for the A’s to pay that kind of money for a set-up man. Designated hitter Jack Cust is also heading for free agency.

Cust leads the team in homers and RBIs and only made about $400,000 this season, but he had a franchise record 182 strikeouts heading into Wednesday night’s game with the Angels. Rob Deer’s AL record of 186 strikeouts and even Ryan Howard’s major-league mark of 199 whiffs are within reach. The power challenged A’s will miss Cust’s big bat, but his K’s kill too many rallies. Frank Thomas or Eric Chavez are both better options at DH next year.

Never have sports cups been so much in demand as they are this weekend.

The Sharks begin the chase for the Stanley Cup when they open their NHL training camp Friday. The U.S. Davis Cup team begins its title defense in Madrid tomorrow against the powerful Spaniards, who not only have the home, clay-court advantage and Rafael Nadal, but the tournament is being held at the 21,000-seat Las Ventas bullfighting arena. Meanwhile, the Ryder Cup tees off Friday at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., with the mighty European team looking for its sixth championship in the last seven matches with the U.S.

You think the Americans had a hard time winning with Tiger Woods, who has a losing record in Ryder Cup play, wait till you see what the Euros do without having to face El Tigre.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on the KGO morning  news and  is also the co-host of  “Raiders Gameday” and “Recap” talk shows on KSFO (560 AM). He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

Lincecum’s numbers

Tim Lincecum’s stats this season entering his start tonight:

W-L    ERA    K      BB    WHIP

17-3   2.43 237    77      1.17

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