The San Francisco Giants' front office caught some heat when it didn't hesitate to offer Tim Lincecum a two-year and $35 million contract in the offseason that brought him back to the Bay Area.
Many felt as though the 29-year-old (at the time) had already seen the best years of his career come and go. The 5'11" 170 pound they call "The Freak" had lost his velocity that gave him an ability to blow pitches by his opponents. And the two-time Cy Young Award winner was coming off the two worst seasons of his career - a stretch of 35 starts with a WHIP near 1.40 and a cumulative record of just 20-29.
Perhaps Lincecum's best years are behind him - actually, his best almost certainly is behind him. But "The Freak" made everyone realize he still can be one of the best pitchers in the game when he is on. With his Giants playing at home against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday afternoon, Lincecum spun possibly the best start of his entire career with his second no-hitter nearly exactly a year after his first - and against the same opponent.
After a 148-pitch no-hitter at Petco Park on July 13 of last season, Lincecum followed up his performance with a much tidier 113-pitch no-no against the Padres. Six starters in San Diego's lineup on Wednesday also found themselves on the wrong end of Lincecum's first no-hitter 347 days ago.
And while the time of year and opponent were just about exactly the same, Lincecum's historic performance came in a much different manner. He struck out 13 in his first no-hitter compared to just six this year. He used all four of his pitches effectively to make San Diego's hitters bounce into 12 easy ground ball outs.
Lincecum's only blunder came against Chase Headley when he walked him in the top of the second inning. From there, he retired 23 straight Padres to cap a 4-0 Giants win. Giants fans will hope the win gets their first-place team back on track and gives them a little momentum into the All-Star break. It also puts San Francisco back on the map after their inter-division rival Dodgers captured lots of recent headlines after no-hitters from both Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw.
Tim Lincecum joins some exclusive company as one of just four pitchers to throw two no-hitters in a calendar year, alongside Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Homer Bailey, most recently. And he and Koufax are now the only two pitchers in baseball history to have two Cy Young's, two no-hitters and two World Series rings. Lincecum turned 30 just 10 days ago.
And even if San Diego hits just .213 as a team, the no-hitter counts for all the same. Maybe Lincecum just picks his spots well.
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