It's been a long, long time since we’ve seen Tim Lincecum look like "The Freak" from years past, but that pitcher definitely showed up at Petco Park on Saturday and he made some history in pitching his first career no-hitter, and the 15th no-hitter in Giants history, against the San Diego Padres.
The entire performance felt like a breakthrough for Lincecum, and when the final out was record, it was like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. For the past two seasons it has been nothing but a struggle to recapture the magic that once made him an elite performer and the ace of baseball's best pitching staff at the time. For one night, there was no struggle. For one night, he was able to put whatever doubts he may have had aside to etch his name into the history books.
And what a truly remarkable and equally fascinating performance it was on so many levels. In being so dominant — Lincecum struck out 13 — he actually put manager Bruce Bochy in a bit of a bind in the later innings in terms of his pitch count. By the sixth inning, Lincecum had already topped 100, and by the time the ninth rolled around, the number was north of 130.
Both are red flag numbers — his career high coming into Saturday night was 138 — but there was never a doubt in Bochy's mind. He was going to let Lincecum sink or swim, and the former two-time Cy Young award winner was able to get back to the surface batter after batter and inning after inning, right up until Yonder Alonso flew out to Gregor Blanco on his 148th pitch for the final out.
According to Lincecum, there was never a doublt in his own mind either. He felt good on his first pitch, and he felt he'd lost nothing when he left go of No. 148.
'I felt fine out there from the first pitch,'' Lincecum said. ''Maybe a little sweaty, but other than that, I felt great.''
Speaking of feeling sweaty, I'm sure Lincecum, along with every Giants fan watching, had a little extra perspiration on their brow watching two very important defensive plays that helped carry him to the finish line.
In the seventh inning, third baseman Pablo Sandoval took away a potential infield hit from Jesus Guzman by ranging behind the bag at third and letting loose with a rocket throw across the diamond for the second out. And then in the eighth, Hunter Pence made the play of the night by sprawling out to rob Alexi Amarista of a bloop hit into right field.
''I thought for sure it was a hit,'' Lincecum said of Pence's play. ''You see Hunter flying out of nowhere making the flying grab. That was really impressive a big play for us.''
Not only was it impressive, it preserved history. For that reason alone, it will now live forever in Giants lore. Right along with the look of elation on Lincecum's face once he not only realized his task was complete, but that "The Freak" was finally back, even if only for night.
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