Lincecum mows down Padres for second no-hitter

AT&T PARK — Tim Lincecum took the mound Wednesday to face a Padres team that dismantled aces Matt Cain and Tim Hudson in the previous games, so the bar wasn’t set particularly high.

Lincecum saw that bar, and leapt a hundred feet over it.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

For the second time in less than a year, Lincecum threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.He is the first Giants pitcher with two no-hitters since Christy Mathewson did it in 1901 against the St. Louis Cardinals and 1905 against the Chicago Cubs.

A slipping San Francisco Giants team defeated the Padres 4-0 on Wednesday behind Lincecum’s dramatic yet clean performance in which the two-time NL Cy Young winner finally took command of his pitches.

Lincecum (W, 6-5, 4.42 ERA) returned to AT&T Park after taking a loss in Arizona where he dealt just one strikeout for only the second time in his career.

He approached all 28 batters he faced with a fresh variety of pitches, painting the strike zone effortlessly with his four-seamer, two-seamer, change-up and slider. He struck out six of those batters and lowered his ERA from 4.90 to 4.42.

Despite the thick air of anticipation that hung over AT&T Park along with the fog, the no-hitter wasn’t stressful.

Last year’s against the Padres, Lincecum was pushing 150 pitches by the end of it. Today, he was below 100 by the eighth inning, and still had energy in the tank.

Manager Bruce Bochy, who said he could sense the no-hitter forming in the third inning, attributes the evolution of the Timmy no-hitter to his transformation from a strikeout-seeker to a finesse pitcher:

“When he came up he was basically a fastball, curveball guy then he came up with a great change-up and slider so he’s a great four-pitch guy now. Sometimes he tries to work a little too hard out there and that’s what I liked about the game today, it just looked like he was putting very little amount of effort into his delivery and that worked out very well for him.”

Lincecum agreed:

“I’ve always been that guy that’s gonna go for the strikeout. The first (no-hitter) I had 13, so I was going for those a little bit more often and today I was just trying to be more efficient and take what they were going to give me and they were giving me a lot of ground balls and pop flies.”

Lincecum’s consistent control of the Padres’ offensive diminished the defensive drama. There were no spectacular catches like the one Gregor Blanco snagged to keep up Matt Cain’s perfect game June 13, 2012.

Lincecum’s outing was perfect, well, near perfect: a walk to Chase Headley in the second inning was the only blemish that separated the no-hitter from a perfect game.

Bochy still made sure he had the best to back Timmy up. He replaced Perez for Morse out in left field in the sixth inning and kept Sandoval in, who showed his worth at third this series with some impressive jumps and catches. Bochy also kept newcomer Joe Panik at second, and Panik wasn’t fretting:

“Just being a couple days up here, him having the confidence in me gives me confidence going forward. I was fortunate to be out there and be a part of the experience…Timmy made it easy for us, he was throwing really well out there.”

The no-hitter was also a new experience for catcher Hector Sanchez. Buster Posey caught Lincecum’s last no-hitter — and Cain’s the year before.

Lincecum and Sanchez developed as a pitcher-catcher duo as Sanchez has become Lincecum’s personal catcher over the past seasons, and Sanchez had confidence in his pitcher:

“I know what kind of pitcher he is, I know what kind of pitch he can throw in any situation and I like Timmy because he is the kind of guy who is confident when he’s pitching. He can throw in any situation.”

After Tuesday night’s 7-2 loss, manager Bruce Bochy asserted that the starting rotation’s slump was the central catalyst to the Giants’ struggles, and today, he said the no-hitter was a big spark to jump start the team again:

“The club really needed it. We’ve gone through a tough stretch so it was good for the whole club. It’s hard enough to do one, to do two that puts you in a different class and I couldn’t be happier.”

Maybe Lincecum’s historic day is the beginning of the Giants’ road back. But, for now, Lincecum is just going to enjoy the day:

“Im gonna go to my house and drink a little bit.”

Notes

The Giants offense showed quiet improvement Wednesday. Buster Posey got four hits, including a double and two RBIs. Brandon Crawford recorded his eighth triple of the season and is now tied for the Major League lead with the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon and the Rangers’ Alex Rios. … Tim Lincecum got two hits of his own to cap an all-Lincecum day, or as Bochy put it, “the Tim Lincecum Show.”