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July 15, 2013

What You Need to Know

The Lincecum Before the Storm

by Daniel Rathman


The Weekend Takeaway
Tim Lincecum accomplished more in his first three-plus major-league seasons than most pitchers do in decade-long careers.

Back-to-back games with double-digit strikeouts on July 26 and August 1, 2008. Back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. A four-hit shutout on September 13, 2008. A two-hitter with 14 strikeouts in Game One of the 2010 National League Division Series, the first step toward the first of his two World Series rings.

But as Lincecum’s fastball velocity waned and the dominance that once came so easily became more difficult to attain, one feat proved elusive.

  • On July 9, 2009, Lincecum held the Padres hitless for six innings and then unraveled in the seventh, as San Diego collected three consecutive singles and tagged him with three runs before the end of the frame. The next day, Jonathan Sanchez did what Lincecum could not, coming within a Juan Uribe error of throwing a perfect game.
  • On April 18, 2011, with his long slump approaching and a championship ring already on his hand, Lincecum got one out closer. He kept the Rockies out of the hit column for 6 1/3 innings—at Coors Field, no less—before Carlos Gonzalez singled and scored on a Todd Helton double.

Fourteen months later, Matt Cain, who had supplanted Lincecum as the Giants’ ace, tossed a perfect game. His predecessor in the top spot of Bruce Bochy’s rotation did not complete a contest between May 21, 2011 and July 12, 2013, much less hold an opponent hitless while doing so.

Finally, in the 212th (postseason included) start of his big-league career—after watching his opposite number, Homer Bailey, do it against him in his 210th—Lincecum put an end to all of those droughts, leading the way in a 7-0 win.

The 29-year-old’s former fastball velocity did not magically return. He needed 23 pitches just to escape the first inning and 148 to go all the way. But Lincecum’s array of secondary pitches baffled a scuffling Padres lineup, and adrenaline carried him to the finish line—one that Bochy, even as the pitch count soared, dared not tell him he couldn’t cross.

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Pebble Hunting: The Sp... (07/15)
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Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (07/17)
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