The demise of Tim Lincecum, rumored for years, whispered incessantly and presumed imminent, is on hold again. He threw another no-hitter Wednesday, and it was even better than the one he twirled last year.
In front of a raucous home crowd in San Francisco, with a breezy demeanor rarely, if ever, seen from starting pitchers during such historic events, Lincecum blew away the awful San Diego Padres with a masterful – and efficient – performance in a 4-0 victory.
Rarely topping 90 mph with his fastball, and far from the phenom who won two Cy Young Awards with the San Francisco Giants, Lincecum nonetheless conjured the sort of excellence that remains within. He walked one and struck out six, needing just 113 pitches, compared to his four-walk, 13-strikeout, 148-pitch no-no against the Padres on July 13, 2013.
Like his last one, the Giants mobbed Lincecum on the mound afterward, thrilled that their teammate who helped lead the franchise to two World Series was again experiencing the joy rarely seen in recent seasons. Entering the game, the 30-year-old Lincecum was 5-5 with a 4.90 ERA, another disappointing start after two seasons in which he rarely resembled his former dominant self.
During spring training, Lincecum vowed to reinvent himself, absent the 98-mph fastball he brought to the major leagues in 2007 with a unique delivery crafted in suburban Seattle. He was a freak then, though he could be categorized much as the same now: a pitcher capable of going through a lineup three times without giving up a hit twice in a calendar year.
“It’s not all about stuff,” Lincecum said in the spring. “Everyone’s already known that. Those are givens. But it’s really buying into that. Really buying into that out there. Knowing that I don’t need to hump up on this 0-2. I need to put it in the right spot. Your mindset changes in ways of how I’m going to get this job done. Back in the day, younger, youthful, it was like, come and get it. Now it’s come and get it – with a plan.”
The Padres tried to get it and failed over and over, emblematic of their season in which they entered the game hitting .216 as a team and were on pace to set an all-time record for worst on-base percentage at .275. If anyone was going to get no-hit,San Diego was the sharp bet.
Lincecum’s no-hitter is the third this season – all in the National League West, with the Dodgers’ Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw accounting for the other two. Beckett, however, is back to pitching like an All-Star after having a rib removed. And Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet. Lincecum is scrapping along, like he always has, like he always will.
“I knew I was going to fight that my whole career,” he said. “It was like, ‘If he’s not going to break now, he’s going to break later.’ It’s always going to be that. Trying to prove that wrong the whole time, I stopped worrying about what I was doing out there, which was being good, I guess, competing, having success.
“You’ve got to get back to the focal points of why you’re here and turn it into a game when you’re a kid again. You take the foundation of the stuff you learned as you get older, but at the same time your mentality should be that of some young kid who’s [expletive] ready to impress somebody.”
Consider everyone impressed.
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