After last night’s loss, Bruce Bochy called out the collective performance of the starting rotation as the “biggest issue right now through this tough stretch.” That wasn’t the case on Wednesday afternoon, as Tim Lincecum tossed his second no-hitter in less than a calendar year against the Padres.
Lincecum threw 148 pitches in last year’s no-hitter in San Diego. He also struck out 13 and walked four that evening. The “pitch to contact” Lincecum was in full effect today, as he walked just one (Chase Headley, on a 3-2 fastball that was pretty close to the zone) while striking out six.
“Really was an artist out there. Pitched very efficiently … His delivery — he looked more compact, putting less effort in it and hitting his spots,” Bochy said.
“The club really needed it. We’ve gone through a tough stretch here. So this is good for the whole club to have something this nice happen. It’s hard enough to do one. To do two puts you in a whole different class.”
Lincecum wasn’t just the pitching star, either. He collected his second and third hits of the season and scored two runs.
“It was the Tim Lincecum show. He hasn’t been swinging the bat that well either. Two hits, walk, two runs, it was pretty much his show today. We needed those hits,” Bochy said.
The star of the show came around on Buster Posey’s fourth hit of the day, a double that plated two runs and gave the Giants a 4-0 lead (which would end up being the final score) in the seventh inning. Normally teams worry about pitchers expending energy on the bases, but Lincecum barely had to jog on his way home from second.
His toughest task was avoiding Hunter Pence, whose full-speed slide almost took him into the grass behind the home plate circle, where Lincecum was standing.
- Lincecum: two hits
- Padres: none
“Regardless of what (the Padres) did, I think it’s cool that I had two hits anyway, just because before today I had one and a piss-poor batting average. So I got that thing above .100 and feeling pretty good about it. I even worked out a four-pitch walk,” said Lincecum with a huge smile, the kind we haven’t seen all that often since the last no-no.
The ninth inning is always the most difficult — or so they say — but that’s when Lincecum may have been at his best. San Diego sent in Chris Denorfia, the kind of gnat-like player who’s built to crush dreams with looping liners hit to right field, as a pinch-hitter to lead off. Denorfia jumped ahead 2-0, but Lincecum got a called strike on a fastball before pouring in two nasty breaking pitches: a slider that Denorfia barely came up with a foul tip on, and a curveball in the dirt that he missed completely. Hector Sanchez threw to Buster Posey to get the out at first, and the crowd knew then that history wasn’t just possible … now it was likely.
Yasmani Grandal ran the count full before hitting a comebacker. Lincecum could’ve made the putout at first by himself if he wanted, but he underhanded it to Posey instead. That seemed to mean something a little extra, perhaps because Posey caught Lincecum’s last no-hitter and Sanchez is now undoubtedly Lincecum’s personal catcher.
Will Venable stepped to the plate looking like a man who just realized the polish sausage he ate in the eighth inning was over 24 hours old. That was my cue to start videotaping. Lincecum got Venable to roll a 1-2 slider over to second baseman Joe Panik. Here’s the entire at-bat and on-field celebration.
A quiet dugout
The first person who mentioned the possibility of a no-hitter was Alex Pavlovic, who saw it coming in the third inning. Bochy was on the same page.
“I’m not just saying this. Early in the game I said, ‘He’s got a chance to throw a no-hitter.’ Just the way he was locked in, had everything working for him,” Bochy said.
“In the third inning I said, ‘God, he’s really locked in.'”
As a result, there wasn’t much chirping in the Giants’ dugout throughout. This was a game that had no uncertainty, really. No defensive play was all that difficult and there were no close calls on the field that required a replay review in New York. It was all about watching the two-time Cy Young winner, who just so happens to also have two World Series rings, go for his second no-hitter.
“It was really quiet. Even the start of the game, it was a little eerie how quiet things were,” Bochy said. “It was one of those games where I had an early feel.”
Lincecum the Unjinxable
The whole “jinx” argument is so, so tired, mostly because the only way for superstitious folks to get away from people who might say the words “no-hitter” or “perfect game” is to shut off all forms of media. And no one’s going to do that.
Then you have the anti-jinx police, who are a little too proud of their “ability” to not recognize any form of superstition.
So the jinx worriers scream at everyone to shut up, and the anti-jinxers sniff their own farts and brag, sounding not unlike one of those pompous individuals everyone knows who is just a little too happy to inform the world that (smug voice) “I don’t watch television.”
Lincecum probably doesn’t fit into either group. All he wants is for everyone to treat him normally, regardless of the situation.
“I feel like it’s more awkward when they don’t talk to you than when they do. I’d rather have people around joking and making it lighter than it is,” said Lincecum. “That’s just the kind of guy I am, so guys are going to chat with me throughout the game and B.S.”
If you’re looking for a reason why the Giants have won two championships in the last four seasons, don’t look toward chemistry or misfit-like behavior. They seem to get better when the stakes are higher. And when it comes to staying loose under pressure, Lincecum is the leader in the clubhouse.
“Since I’ve seen two of them, I can answer (what Lincecum is like during a no-hitter),” said Pence, who wasn’t required to make a diving, crazy-tongued catch today.
“Honestly, he’s extremely relaxed. It’s like he’s immune to the big moment. Even in the playoffs. A lot of the guys on this team — Buster, Pablo and Tim and a lot of guys — are extremely immune to the big moment. They’re free.”
After last night’s two-error game, Shawon Dunston sat at Panik’s locker, talking to the rookie for several minutes. About 16 hours later, Panik fields the final ground ball in a no-hitter. Unreal.
“Shawon came over last night and told me, ‘Hey listen, it happens. Just keep your head up, keep moving forward. We know the type of ballplayer you are.’ That they wrote me in the lineup feels good, keeps the confidence going. And sure enough today, it was something special so I was fortunate to be a part of it,” said Panik.
Panik got to experience the game with his friend, Adam Duvall, who filled the roster spot of Angel Pagan (DL) and joined the team today.
“He must be a good luck charm or something. He comes rolling through the dugout a couple innings in, gets to witness a no-hitter,” Panik said.
Something for Sanchez to savor
“I made sure I told Hector out in the field, ‘You’ll never forget this moment. You’ve got to be proud of this.’ For a catcher to catch a no-hitter, that’s pretty special. He should feel so good about that, because he’s such a huge part of what happened today,” Bochy said.
“In the game you don’t want to think about it, but after the game it’s the best feeling in the world … after winning the World Series,” said Sanchez, who didn’t lift Lincecum nearly as high off the ground after the final out as Posey did a year ago at Petco.
“I don’t want to hurt him, you know,” Sanchez said.
Team USA mojo
A little story from before today’s game, courtesy of Pence:
“Right before he pitched, we got jerseys sent from Team USA, personalized. They sent me and Tim one. Tim is a huge soccer fan. He came in from warming up and he was like, ‘Dude, thank you so much.’ He thanked me, even though they were from Team USA — they sent them to me and I gave him his. He was so pumped. I think we’re going to give a little shout-out to Team USA soccer for sending us jerseys and we’ve been inspired just by watching them and how they’ve gone about it. So that was the one sign of a difference (before the game) where I saw him excited.”
I asked Pence if Lincecum’s performance might be a good omen for the U.S. Men, who face Germany tomorrow.
“Hopefully. We’re going to be rooting for them. We believe in ’em.”
Excellence calls for party time
Lincecum is always good for a little “Eff Yeah” excitement after moments like these. He’s a 30-year-old now, but that doesn’t mean much has changed. You kind of get the feeling that even if he no-hit the Dodgers in L.A., he wouldn’t be going to Disneyland after this one.
“I think I (told Dave Flemming) I was going to go to my house and, I don’t know, maybe drink a little bit,” Lincecum said with a sly grin, before looking around and possibly spotting Larry Baer standing amongst reporters.
“Can I say that? I guess I can. We’re gonna paaaarrrtttyyy.”