Programming note: Get your DVRs ready, we’re re-airing Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter tonight at 7:30 p.m. and at midnight, and again Thursday at 12 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – The seventh-inning stretch had come and gone, Tim Lincecum hadn’t given up a hit, and there he stood.
In the Giants dugout. Talking with Tim Hudson. Running his fingers through his hair and laughing out loud.
To hell with superstition. Lincecum was getting all the “crappy contact” he had dreamed about, and the result was another historic night in his pantheon of pitching performances.
Eighteen days short of the one-year anniversary of his no-hitter against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, Lincecum did it again. He held the Padres to just a walk, struck out six and threw the 16th no-hitter in Giants history in a 4-0 victory Wednesday afternoon.
Lincecum became just the second major league pitcher, and the first in more than 100 years, to no-hit the same team twice in his career. Addie Joss, who pitched for Cleveland so long ago the franchise was called the Naps, no-hit the Chicago White Sox in 1908 and ’10.
Lincecum also joined Christy Mathewson (in 1901 and ’05) as the only pitchers in Giants history to throw two no-hitters.
But other than the pitcher and opponent, there was so little in common between Wednesday afternoon and that July 13 game last season at Petco Park. Lincecum pitched on a different mound this time, threw to a different catcher, Hector Sanchez, and the bullpen was a much quieter place.
The last time, Manager Bruce Bochy chewed fingernails as he let Lincecum throw 148 pitches. The right-hander struck out 13, walked four and had the bullpen busy in the sixth inning.
This time, Lincecum threw just 113 pitches (73 strikes), allowed one baserunner – and didn’t even require a bid-saving catch from anyone, including Hunter Pence in right field.
He was quiet, he was under control – and the Padres kept making crappy contact. It was everything Lincecum aspired to do this season.
With Lincecum the past two years and Matt Cain’s perfect game against the Houston Astros in 2012, the Giants became the first team to receive a no-hitter in three consecutive seasons since 1973-75, when Nolan Ryan fired one each year for the California Angels.
Lincecum has thrown two complete games since 2011. Both are no-hitters, both against the Padres.
Starting pitching report
It was clear from the outset that Lincecum had good break and finish on his offspeed pitches, and he put himself in favorable counts to use them. He struck out two in the first inning and got Seth Smith to ground into an infield shift.
It didn’t matter that his fastball barely cracked 90 mph. He kept them out of the middle of the plate, and let his defense do the rest.
Lincecum operated out of the stretch just once, in the second inning, when he issued a one-out walk to Chase Headley after getting ahead 1-2. Headley took two fastballs and a curve out of the zone to reach base. Then Tommy Medica struck out and Lincecum got Alexi Amarista to ground out to second base.
From there, Lincecum kept getting that “crappy contact” he talked so often about in the spring. There were three fly outs in the third, two ground outs and a fly out in the fourth, a strikeout of Headley and another ground out in the fifth. Amarista made decent contact to right field but the play didn’t require an extraordinary effort from Pence.
By the sixth inning, the crowd sounded fully involved. They gave Lincecum an ovation after he got Will Venable to ground out to end that inning, then the ovation became louder when Carlos Quentin grounded to short to end a 1-2-3 seventh.
They went down in order in the eighth, with Amarista again making the loudest contact. Gregor Blanco gloved a fly ball just short of the warning track to end the inning.
Pinch hitter Chris Denorfia, a difficult out for the Giants over his career, struck out on a slurve in the dirt to start the ninth inning, throwing his bat as Sanchez threw to first base for the out. Pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal was next, worked the count full on a couple close pitches, then hit a tapper that Lincecum raced off the mound to field and underhand to first base.
Will Venable followed with a grounder to second base and Joe Panik, making his fourth major league start, fielded it without incident and made the most important 40-foot throw of his life to end it.
Sanchez was the first to embrace Lincecum, who wasn’t lost in the fog this time. He pumped his fist, fully aware of what he’d just accomplished, as his teammates mobbed him.
A year ago at Petco Park, the bullpen got busy in the sixth inning as Lincecum passed the 100-pitch mark. This time, nobody threw a single warmup pitch.
At the plate
Buster Posey wasn’t behind the plate this time, but he supported Lincecum with four hits and drove in three runs. That’s almost as good as a Buster Hug, right?
Brandon Crawford matched Dee Gordon and Alex Rios for the major league lead with eight triples – not a bad feat for a guy with five career stolen bases – when his wind-aided shot evaded a back-pedaling Will Venable in center field with one out in the second inning. Hector Sanchez’s sacrifice fly accounted for the game’s first run.
The Giants added a run in the third inning when Lincecum beat out an infield single, Posey rapped a two-out hit and Pablo Sandoval followed with an RBI double.
Lincecum singled again to start the seventh and scored on Posey’s two-run double – the first baseman’s fourth hit of the game – to give the Giants a 4-0 lead. Posey has quietly hit safely in 19 of 21 games in June while compiling a .366 average.
Lincecum was on base three times, including a walk in the eighth inning. The Padres were on base against him just once.
No miracle catches needed this time.
The Giants announced 41,500 paid, and they celebrated a Happy Lincecum Day together.
The Giants begin a four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday at AT&T Park. Ryan Vogelsong (5-3, 4.13 ERA) takes the mound against Reds right-hander Mike Leake (5-6, 3.59). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Madison Bumgarner ((9-4, 2.63) vs. Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto (7-5, 1.86) on Friday, Matt Cain (1-6, 4.82) vs. Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon (10-3, 2.92) on Saturday and Tim Hudson (7-4, 2.62) vs. Reds right-hander Homer Bailey (7-4, 4.80) on Sunday.