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The Return of “The Freak”: Tim Lincecum Pitches Second No-Hitter of 2013 MLB Season

Tim Lincecum

“It’s pretty surreal for me to be a part of that, obviously I’ve gotten to see a couple of those, but to be in the middle of one is a little different. I’m still kind of pinching myself right now.” Tim  Lincecum 

Last night in San Diego San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum added another accomplishment to his career. The two time National League Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player pitched his first no hitter against the San Diego Padres.  It happened 11 days after the Giant’s were the victims of the first no-hitter of the season pitched by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds.

I tuned in late to the MLB channel when I saw a tweet that Lincecum was pitching a no-hitter through 6 innings. Watching Lincecum, his shirt drenched in sweat shut down the Padres over the next three innings was nothing short of amazing. Now shorn of the long hair that was a part of his image since his first year in the majors Lincecum showed his mettle and with each batter dominated the Padres, striking out 13 during the game.

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It was good to see. Lincecum, a pitcher who is a class act and well liked around the league had fallen on hard times since helping lead the Giants to their first World Series title in San Francisco in 2010. In 2011 he went 13 and 14 despite keeping a respectable 2.74 ERA but in 2012 he struggled, eventually being regulated to the bullpen when to the surprise of many he went about his business in a stellar fashion pitching middle relief including during the playoffs and World Series where he was a key part of the Giant’s success in winning their second World Series title in three years.

He has struggled again as a starter in 2013 but has begun to break out of his funk through dogged perseverance. Last night Lincecum, nicknamed “the Freak” no-hit the Padres on 148 pitches. It was the second highest number of pitches served up by a pitcher completing a no-hitter since Edwin Jackson did so with 149 pitches for the Diamondbacks in an inter-league game on June 25th 2010 and the second highest pitch count total in a no-hitter since 1988.

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Hunter Pence makes a Diving Catch to Save the No Hitter in the 8th Inning

I am hoping that this really marks the return of the “old” Tom Lincecum, both for his sake and that of the Giants. No matter what it was a magical night where “the Freak” made history and was backed up by the outstanding defense of his team, especially Hunter Pence who made the defensive play of the game to end the 8th inning snagging Alexi Amarista’s sinking liner with a full dive to end the inning. Lincecum said “I thought for sure it was a hit. You see Hunter flying out of nowhere making the flying grab. That was a really impressive big play for us.”

Coming off their 2012 World Series title the first half of the 2013 season has been miserable to say the least. Yet despite a being in 4th place with a 43-51 record the Giants are only 6.5 games behind the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks. If Lincecum and his fellow starting pitchers can get back to their old form the Giants could still take the West.

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If nothing else last night was something to celebrate, and I like many if not the vast majority of Giants fans hope that this signals the return of “The Freak” to greatness.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS

Buster Posey hits a Grand Slam in the 5th Inning (AP Photo- David Kohl) 

Bruce Botchy’s San Francisco Giants appeared to be done. Their bats were lifeless and the Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds looked like they would easily defeat the NL West Champion Giants as they went back to Cincinnati following their 9-0 drubbing of the Giants in San Francisco. But as the Giants have showed all season, the the going gets tough, the Giants get going and did so in a never been done before way.

Scott Rolen’s critical error in Game 3 (Jonathan Daniel Getty Images)

The Giants were the first team in the history of baseball in a 5 game series to lose the first two games at home and then win the remaining three games on the road. It was a remarkable feat made even more impressive by the dominance of the Reds pitching and slugging at the Great American Ballpark in the regular season.

Tim Lincecum in Relief (Andrew Weber US Presswire) 

In game three the Giants faced Homer Bailey who had thrown a no hitter in the final week of the season. Bailey was still hot. He went 7 innings and struck out ten Giants and allowing just one hit. However the Giants eeked out a run in the top of the third inning when Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly to score Gregor Blanco who had gotten on board after being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. The score remained tied at one into the top of the 10th inning. Giants catcher Buster Posey led off with a single and advanced to second base on a single by Hunter Pence. Then reliever Jonathan Broxton struck out Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady. Joaquin Arias then hit a grounder to Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen, Rolen bobbled the ball and Arias beat the throw to first as Posey running on the pitch scored the go ahead run. Giants’ closer Sergio Romo downed the Reds in order in the bottom half of the inning to secure the win.

Reds Starter Matt Latos after being pulled following Buster Posey’s Grand Slam in Game 5 (AP Photo Michael Keating) 

On Wednesday the Giants got out to an early 3-1 lead but starter Barry Zito began to have control problems and gave up a lead off home run to Ryan Ludwig and with two outs in the bottom of the third inning Botchy pulled Zito for George Kontos. Kontos stayed in the game until the 4th inning when he gave up a one out single to Zach Cozart. Botchy brought in Jose Mijares to face Reds slugger Joey Votto who he struck out. This gave Botchy the chance to double switch bringing Joaquin Arias to shortstop and bring in former starter and two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum into the game. Lincecum pitched 4.1 innings giving up a run on one hit while striking out six Reds. While Lincecum shut down the Reds the Giants bats erupted for 2 runs in the top of the 5th inning and 3 more in the top of the 7th. Santiago Casilla came on in the 9th to finish the game and pull the Giants even in the series and send the series into the deciding game 5.

Today the Giants starter Matt Cain and Reds starter Matt Latos had a pitcher’s duel going through the first 4 innings, then things fell apart for Latos and the Reds. Gregor Blanco singled and scored when Brandon Crawford tripled. Crawford scored when Zack Cozart committed an error on a ground ball hit by Joaquin Arias. Latos then walked Marco Scutero and gave up a single to Pablo Sandoval. With the bases loaded Buster Posey homered to deep left center to make the score 6-0. That would be enough. The Reds scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th and a run in the bottom of the 6th to make the score 6-3. Botchy used 5 relievers in the final three innings and the Reds threatened but were not able to score again.

The Giants had done what no one thought was possible. They had won three on the road against the Reds, and their offense which had been dormant in San Francisco plated 14 runs in the final two games of the series. In games one and two the Reds had done everything right but after the error by Rolen in game three nothing seemed to go right and the Big Red Machine broke down.

Dusty Baker disappointed again (Getty Images)

The loss of the series was another disappointment for Reds manager Dusty Baker who having suffered through a mini-stroke in the final week of the season and had come back to manage following several days in hospital. Baker who was the manager of the Giants in 2002 lost in the World Series when his team was leading the series against the Angels and in 2003 now managing the Chicago Cubs got to the NLCS against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs led the series 3 games to 2 and had a 3-0 lead going into the top of the 8th inning. That inning was a nightmare. With a runner on second and one out  Luis Castillo hit a foul ball to left field. The ball drifted into the first row of the stands and into the outstretched hand of Cub fan Steve Bartman. The Cubs plead for a call of fan interference but that was denied. The rest is history, a critical error and some clutch hitting by the Marlins gave them an 8-3 lead and the win. The Cubs lost game seven and Baker was stung by much criticism for the Cubs loss.

Giants Celebrate (AP Photo Michael Keating)

The Giants who had battled injuries, a suspension of their leading hitter for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs and pitching that was not what it has been the past couple of years proved to be the gritty and tough team that won the NL West. They will move on the face the winner of the NLDS series between the Cardinals and Nationals which the Nationals forced into game five when Jason Werth hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning at National’s Field this afternoon.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Seven: Homer Bailey of Reds Pitches 7th MLB No-Hitter of 2012

Sometimes records are broken, sometimes they are not, and sometimes they are tied. Tonight, Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds became the 7th pitcher of 2012 to pitch a no-hitter tying the record of no-hitters pitched in a season shutting down the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0. The no-hitter ties a modern record set in 1990 and 1991. It was the first no-no pitched by a Red’s pitcher in over 24 years, the last being on September 16th 1988 by Tom Browning.

Bailey who has been with the Reds throughout his Major League career walked just one batter and struck out ten Pirates. He joined Matt Cain of the Giants, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, Phil Humber of the White Sox, Jared Weaver of the Anglers, Johan Santana of the Mets and six pitchers of the Mariners who combined on a no-hitter.  Cain Hernandez and Humber all pitched perfect games.

With the win the Reds improved to 95-62 and the Pirates (76-81) continued their death spiral guaranteeing themselves of their 20th straight non-winning season after being 16 games above .500 on August when they were 63-47 and leading the NL Central.

The 2012 season continues to surprise and pitching has been a big part of it. Will there be yet another no-hitter in the last 5 games of the season? Who knows, but whatever it will be exciting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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