Perhaps the Giants have found their spark, the spark that propels them back into the NL West hunt that’s reached of their grasp with a June swoon and a similar July struggle.
Regardless of the effect, Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter stands as one of the better pitched games in San Francisco Giants’ history.
Lincecum’s 148-pitch effort was a rocky one. His 148 pitches were the most since Edwin Jackson logged in 2009 for the Chicago White Sox. So surely Bruce Bochy paced back and forth in the dugout. The upcoming All-Star break gives Lincecum a good chunk of time to recover, but that certainly didn’t ease Bochy’s mind.
Lincecum had a nice cushion to work with, though. Protecting a lead never surfaced as an issue, as the Giants notched nine runs. Buster Posey, who also called Lincecum’s gem, collected three hits, as did the white-hot Pablo Sandoval.
The Posey-Sandoval duo led San Francisco’s nine-run outburst. It started early, as Posey’s two-out infield chopper was followed by Sandoval’s double to put the Giants on the board.
They both doubled to lead off the fourth, and they both scored. Hunter Pence’s groundout drove Posey in, and Brandon Belt’s mammoth two-run blast plated Sandoval.
Posey and Sandoval were back at it again in the fifth. After Lincecum walked to lead off the inning, Gregor Blanco and Marco Scutaro both struck out before Sandoval and Posey singled consecutively. Pence, who also homered in the eighth, tripled to clear the bases, and Belt’s singled capped a four-run fifth inning.
But the spotlight remained on Lincecum.
The 29-year-old was on cruise through five innings. At one point he struck out six straight, using his nasty splitter-changeup combination to comb through San Diego’s feeble lineup.
The two-time Cy Young award winner skated on thin ice in the sixth inning, which has been the trend in 2013. Entering Saturday, he had an 8.44 ERA in the sixth, and that total did decrease after Saturday, but Lincecum had two strike out a pair to absorb two walks.
He benefited from an 11-pitch seventh inning with his fatigue increasing and his velocity waning to the 88-90 MPH range. He cut down on the walks, but with each pitch, the Giants’ coaching staff cringed.
There were surely some cringes when Alexi Amarista’s line drive nearly broke up the no-hitter. Amarista pulled Lincecum’s slider to right field where Pence swooped in to corral the liner. It didn’t exactly draw parallels to Gregor Blanco’s catch during Matt Cain’s perfect game in 2012, because he didn’t cover as much ground. But it was indeed a fantastic, no-hitter-saving catch.
Lincecum struck out Chase Headley to begin the ninth on a disappearing splitter. Roberto Kelly, San Francisco’s outfield coach, had Blanco positioned perfectly on Carlos Quentin’s ensuing line drive for out No. 2.
Lincecum didn’t need a marvelous catch or a lucky bounce to get out No. 3. Yonder Alonso gave his 138th pitch a decent ride, but Blanco easily settled under it to covert the out.
So to recap Lincecum’s portfolio: Two Cy Young award, two World Series rings, four All-Star Game selections and now, a no-hitter. For all his struggles over the past year-and-a-half, that’s quite a résumé.