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June 26, 2014

What You Need to Know

Lincecum Conquers Again

by Daniel Rathman

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The Wednesday Takeaway
Until yesterday afternoon, only one pitcher in major league history had no-hit the same team twice. In the series finale between the Giants and Padres, Tim Lincecum gave long-ago Cleveland Naps right-hander Addie Joss—who baffled the White Sox in 1908 and 1910—some company by dominating Bud Black’s lineup for the second time in less than a year.

Last July 13, Lincecum paved the way for a 9-0 Giants victory at Petco Park with the first no-hitter of his career. The righty walked four, hit a batter, uncorked a wild pitch, and struck out 13 that day, needing 148 pitches to record 27 outs.

Wednesday’s outing, which took place at AT&T Park, bore little resemblance to that grueling effort beyond the venue. In authoring the third no-hitter of the season to date, Lincecum used 35 fewer deliveries, issued only one free pass, and fanned only half a dozen.

With spotty control but sharp secondary pitches, Lincecum sliced through the Padres last July by getting them to chase sliders and splitters in the dirt. That wasn’t the case in no-hitter no. 2:

Lincecum coaxed only three swings-and-misses below the knees on Wednesday afternoon, as the Padres showed better discipline and forced him to come into the zone in two-strike counts. The right-hander countered by spinning dozens of sliders into the hitting area, throwing the breaking ball more times (40) than he did his two- and four-seam fastballs combined (39). And the Padres could do nothing with it.

All 13 of the sliders the Friars hit fair turned into outs—as did the four fastballs, three changeups, and one curveball they put into play. The league’s worst lineup by batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and—to prove that those numbers weren’t being suppressed by their home yard—context-adjusted True Average returned to futility after pounding Matt Cain and Tim Hudson in the first two games of the series.

Lincecum earned first-pitch strikes againstonly 12 of the 28 Padres he faced, but his command of the slider and the Padres’ inability to hit it combined to bail him out when he fell into hitter’s counts. There were no Web Gems in Wednesday’s contest, no sinking liners or well-placed grounders that might’ve put the no-hitter in jeopardy. The Friars simply weren’t able to square anything up.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was, though.

After Brandon Crawford (triple) and Hector Sanchez (sacrifice fly) teamed up to give Lincecum a 1-0 lead, the pitcher padded it by leading off the third with an infield single and scoring on a double by Pablo Sandoval. Lincecum sparked another rally in the bottom of the seventh by slapping a single to the opposite field. Buster Posey doubled home two runs later in the frame to give Lincecum a comfortable cushion with which to try to record the last six outs of the 4-0 decision.

And, just for good measure, with one away in the last of the eighth, Lincecum drew a walk.

When he finished off the Padres, Lincecum became the third pitcher in the last century to reach base three times while tossing a no-no. The others were Catfish Hunter and Jim Palmer, who both did it in the late 1960s.

Wednesday’s gem was just the second scoreless outing of the season for Lincecum, who also hit the showers with no hits on his line on May 28 but needed 96 pitches to retire 15 Cubs that day. It sent his ERA tumbling from 4.90 to 4.42 and marked just the second Giants victory behind the right-hander since that bullpen-aided win against the North Siders.

After dropping the opener and the middle match of the three-game set versus the Padres, the Giants needed a stopper to avoid losing six in a row at home for the first time since May 2008. Lincecum played that role in historic fashion, helping his team keep pace with the Dodgers, who have cut the Giants’ West-division lead from 9 ½ games to three in a span of 17 days.

Quick Hits from Wednesday
You know what else had happened only once before yesterday? A player named “Yohan” participating in a major-league game.

The pioneer was Twins right-hander Yohan Pino, who earned his first call-up at the age of 30 and tossed seven innings of two-run ball against the White Sox on June 19. While Lincecum was busy joining Addie Joss, Rockies rookie Yohan Flande followed the trail that Pino had blazed.

In fact, both Pino and Flande toed the rubber on Wednesday. Unfortunately, neither of them pitched particularly well.

Flande went first in a matchup with fellow first-time big-league starter Marco Gonzales. Both lasted only five innings in the matinee at Coors Field and each surrendered only one home run.

Drew Stubbs went yard for the Rockies to spark a five-run fourth inning. Matt Adams whacked a two-run shot in the fifth. And the 28-year-old Flande actually departed with a 5-4 lead.

When starters ask their relievers to cover four innings with a razor-thin margin in the mile-high air, however, they seldom get credited with a win. Tommy Kahnle held the line as the Rox padded the tally to 6-4 in the sixth. But Rex Brothers, Adam Ottavino, and Nick Masset weren’t up to the task.

Brothers allowed only one run, on a sacrifice fly by Jhonny Peralta, while Ottavino and Masset were charged with two apiece. Back-to-back doubles by Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter accounted for the damage done to the former. Masset coughed up a leadoff single to Adams, then watched the portly first baseman steal second and move to third on a throwing error by catcher Wilin Rosario. That put Adams in position to score on a sac fly by Yadier Molina, and a throwing error by Masset moved Peralta—who’d walked—into scoring position for the second sac fly of the inning, this one off the bat of Allen Craig.

Flande blew the bulk of a 5-1 advantage, and his mates in the bullpen turned a 6-4 lead into a 9-6 defeat.

Hours later, Pino fared even more poorly in the friendlier confines of Angel Stadium. He served up seven hits, including three doubles, in just three innings on the bump, as the Halos scored five times in support of Garrett Richards. The Angels tallied another run in the ninth to win 6-2 and improve their season-best winning streak to five games.

***

Three of the Orioles’ last six games have been decided in walk-off fashion. The first was a loss—at the hands of Carlos Beltran and the Yankees on Friday. The second was a win, on the strength of Chris Davis’ bat in game one of three versus the White Sox on Monday. Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the South Siders did not involve a game-ending long ball. The game’s biggest big fly came in the home half of the eighth.

Before that swing by Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez battled through 6 1/3 innings, holding the White Sox to four runs on eight hits. Along the way, he teed up Jose Abreu’s 23rd homer:

But by keeping Robin Ventura’s offense from pulling away as Hector Noesi scattered nine singles over seven-plus frames, Jimenez gave his own hitters a chance to go to work against Chicago’s bullpen.

Ventura yanked Noesi out of the game when Nick Hundley and Nick Markakis singled to begin the last of the eighth. Zach Putnam came on and did his job, coaxing harmless fly outs from Steve Pearce and Adam Jones. The next two relievers failed to take care of business.

Lefty Scott Downs got the ball to face Davis, who slammed a three-run shot off of right-hander Ronald Belisario in Monday’s contest. Downs did better, but by walking Davis instead of letting him do the damage, the southpaw set up the next man out of the pen with the bases loaded, two out, and another fearsome slugger coming to the plate.

Ventura went to Javy Guerra to take on the right-handed-swinging Cruz. He fell behind in the count, 2-1, and then placed a 95-mph fastball over the outer third. Cruz was not impressed:

The grand slam turned a 4-0 blanking into a 4-4 tie that wouldn’t be settled until the 12th.

Guerra shook off Cruz’s dinger to provide 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Jake Petricka gave the visitors two more chances to put the O’s on the ropes. But they couldn’t do it, and Daniel Webb couldn’t hold the line any longer.

The righty walked Hundley to begin the bottom of the 12th, and Buck Showalter sent the speedier David Lough to first to run for him. Lough went first-to-third on a single by the next batter, Nick Markakis. Webb gifted Lough the final 90 feet by overthrowing a first-pitch fastball to Pearce:

The wild pitch brought an end to the only extra-inning contest produced by Wednesday’s slate, on the heels of a Tuesday that saw two five-plus-hour marathons. Baltimore’s 5-4 victory moved the O’s back within 1 ½ games of the East-leading Blue Jays, who lost to the Yankees, 5-3.

***

David Price was auditioning for potential trade suitors on Wednesday. And no one was happier than Rays general manager Andrew Friedman when his ace put on a show for the scouts in attendance at Tropicana Field.

Both Price and Pirates starter Charlie Morton fanned 11 batters in the series finale. But while the visitors’ righty allowed three runs in a wacky first inning, the home nine’s lefty held the Bucs scoreless into the ninth.

Let’s count the breaks from which the Rays benefited with Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin:

1. After Desmond Jennings singled to begin the bottom of the first, Ben Zobrist sent a line drive into the right-center field gap. It seemed to be within lunging range for Andrew McCutchen, but the center fielder couldn’t quite get the ball into his glove, giving Zobrist a triple and the Rays the game’s first run.

2. The next batter, Evan Longoria, grounded to short. With the infield back, Zobrist would have scored anyway. But Jordy Mercer got eaten up by the hop, enabling Longoria to reach, too.

3. After that, James Loney moved Longoria to second with an infield single off of Morton’s foot. Longoria moved to third when Morton plunked Brandon Guyer and came around to score on Kevin Kiermaier’s sacrifice fly, prompting this quip from Topkin:

Those three runs were plenty for Price, who fired fastballs by the Pirates throughout the afternoon and threw more than 80 percent of his changeups and curveballs for strikes. He struck out 11, including two in the eighth inning, when his first victim was Clint Barmes.

That punchout was significant, because it raised Price’s total to 10. With it, he became the first pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts in five consecutive starts since Johan Santana did it in 2004.

The Rays gave Price two superfluous insurance runs at Jason Grilli’s expense in the last of the eighth, before he took the hill seeking a complete-game shutout in the ninth. McCutchen had other ideas, as he chased Price with an opposite-field solo homer that made it 5-1.

Jake McGee finished off the Pirates—in plenty of time for Price to watch his former collegiate program, Vanderbilt, take home the 2014 College World Series crown.

The Defensive Play of the Day
Josh Reddick is back from the disabled list and back on the highlight reel. Neither a wall nor an uncooperative fan could stop him from making this catch:

Bonus: The Defensive Non-Play of the Day


Joba Chamberlain’s breaking ball was too nasty for Rougned Odor. Unfortunately, it was also too nasty for catcher Bryan Holaday. Then, with Miguel Cabrera on the foul side of first base, Holaday chucked the ball to the inside of the line. By the time Torii Hunter retrieved it, Odor was well on his way to third. And though third-base umpire Tim Welke initially called Odor out, the umps huddled and reversed the call to safe, ensuring the play’s mention in WYNTK.

What to Watch for on Thursday

  • Ricky Nolasco is on something of a rare streak at the moment: He’s thrown at least 103 pitches without completing the sixth inning in three consecutive starts, and he hasn’t allowed more than four runs in any of them. No other starting pitcher has done that since David Price in 2009, and only one—Scott Kazmir in 2008—has compiled a four-start stretch of this sort in the pitch count era. The first-year Twin will aim to work more efficiently without getting knocked around in the matinee finale versus the Angels. Nolasco is scheduled to take on Jered Weaver in Anaheim (3:35 p.m. ET).

  • Since Doug Fister spent the first five seasons of his major-league career in the junior circuit, he’s never had the pleasure of pitching in Wrigley Field or facing the Cubs. That’ll change tonight, when Fister leads the Nationals into the Windy City for a four-game series that begins with a duel with Travis Wood. The 30-year-old right-hander has turned in a pair of scoreless outings in his last three assignments, but while he’s held opponents to a .522 OPS at Nationals Park, they’ve thumped him for an .810 collective OPS on the road this season. He’ll try to shave that number down in the opener (8:05 p.m. ET).

  • Christian Friedrich’s last outing against the Brewers was one to forget. He was responsible for the now-infamous wild pitch that cleared the bases with opposing starter Wily Peralta in the box. All the left-hander could ask for is a second chance at the Brewers—an opportunity to wash away the lingering bitter taste of that mess. Friedrich will get precisely that this evening, when the Rockies travel to Milwaukee. Just as they did on Saturday, the Brew Crew is scheduled to counter with Peralta (8:10 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Tim Lincecum,  No-hitter

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