Lincecum no-hit the Padres on Wednesday afternoon, something he also did 347 days ago, on July 13, 2013. This time around, his outing stood in stark contrast — Lincecum worked efficiently, throwing 113 pitches in a 4-0 victory, compared to the laborsome 148 pitches last year.
The headline last year was Lincecum returning to "Freak" mode, striking out 13 Padres hitters. He was good Wednesday, obviously, but it wasn't the overly dominating Lincecum who won those back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and '09, the Lincecum people keep hoping will return one day.
This 2014 model had six strikeouts, allowed one walk and made great use of his full arsenal of pitches. A second-inning walk to Chase Headley was the difference between Lincecum's no-hitter and a perfect game. And that great arsenal of four pitches — his fastball, curve, slider and changeup — showed the kind of pitcher 30-year-old Tim Lincecum can be, the kind of pitcher he needs to be to find consistent success in what's become the second chapter of his career.
This wasn't the Lincecum of yesteryear, throwing gas past hitters. He threw only a handful of pitches above 90 mph, in fact. His velocity has gone down the past couple years while his ERA has gone up (2.74 in 2011, compared to 4.90 this season). He's needed to reinvent himself, and what we saw Wednesday was pretty good — the Crafty Lincecum.
In a seven-pitch seventh inning, for example, Lincecum didn't get his fastball above 90 mph, but did a fine job of mixing his curveball, slider and changeup. Pitchers need things like seven-pitch innings late in games to sustain a no-hitter, but perhaps Lincecum's biggest challenge came in the Giants' half of the seventh.
The Giants sent eight batters to the plate, including Lincecum who led off the inning with the single. (He had two hits on the day, actually). Lincecum eventually came around to score on one of Buster Posey's four hits for the game's final run.
That inning lasted 24 minutes. But Lincecum stayed warm on the bases, even going into the dugout to chat with his coaches and teammates during one of the Padres' two pitching changes. After he came around to score, Lincecum even talked to teammates in the dugout. This wasn't a young guy marveling at the situation, it was a matured vet who knew exactly what he was doing.
The long seventh inning didn't shake Lincecum like it did Cubs pitcher Jake Arrietta, who lost a perfect game Tuesday night after a 23-minute wait between innings. Lincecum came out in the eighth and set the Padres down in order, then did it again in the ninth. Frankly, he made those final couple innings look easy.
"He really was an artist out there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the game.
Artistic. Mature. Crafty. This was a different Tim Lincecum. One that the Giants can get used to seeing.
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