SAN FRANCISCO -- Proving that he's a performer for the ages, Tim Lincecum reached across the centuries Wednesday to match a feat that only one other Giant accomplished.
Lincecum became the second Giant to pitch two no-hitters, barely missing a perfect game while silencing the San Diego Padres in San Francisco's 4-0 triumph at AT&T Park.
The great Christy Mathewson no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs on July 15, 1901 and June 13, 1905, respectively. Lincecum joined the "Big Six," as Mathewson was nicknamed, by bookending the 16th no-hitter in Giants history with his epic 148-pitch effort in San Diego last July 13.
"Anytime your name is alongside any of the Giants greats that have come through and put on this uniform, it's a blessing," said Lincecum, who turned 30 on June 15.
The diminutive right-hander increased the list of Major Leaguers with multiple no-hitters to 32, including three other active pitchers: Cincinnati's Homer Bailey, Toronto's Mark Buehrle and Detroit's Justin Verlander. "It's hard enough to do one. To do two, that puts you in a little different class," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Lincecum also fashioned the season's third no-hitter, joining Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.
A paid crowd of 41,500, which alternately sat in nervous silence and stood to unleash ecstatic cheers, watched Lincecum record the Giants' eighth no-hitter since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. It also was the third no-hitter at AT&T Park, all by Giants, since it opened in 2000. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez stymied the Padres, 8-0, on July 10, 2009, and Matt Cain pitched a perfect game against Houston in a 10-0 rout on June 13, 2012.
As he did in his first no-hitter against the Padres, Lincecum thrived without the overpowering fastball that distinguished him when he won National League Cy Young Awards in 2008 and '09. To be sure, he employed the fastball, and did so effectively, throwing it to spots where Padres hitters were vulnerable and at times when they expected a different delivery.
"I didn't feel like my stuff was great," said Lincecum, who threw 73 strikes in 113 pitches. "The more it was down, the more movement it had, and I was getting the ground balls that I needed and the weak pop flies. So I was leaning on that. I didn't feel like it was a 'stuff' day; I felt like it was a location day."
As has been the case for the last few years, Lincecum's velocity peaked at 92 mph -- about 5 mph slower than his heater traveled at the outset of his Giants career. Lincecum, who denied himself a perfect game by walking Chase Headley with one out in the second inning, relied on finesse rather than force as he continued his transition from power pitcher to precision expert.
"He really was an artist out there," Bochy said.
The Padres were duly impressed.
"When you face him, you never know what Timmy that you're going to get," first baseman Tommy Medica said. "I think it just goes to show that even though his velocity is down, he's still able to make good pitches."
"He threw everything for strikes. The split-finger and changeup were good," said Padres catcher Rene Rivera.
Said Headley, referring to Lincecum's three consecutive sub-.500 finishes from 2011-13, "I really respect him. ... As much as you hate that to happen, you have to tip your cap to him."
With this triumph, Lincecum re-emphasized that he transcends statistics by remaining capable of wondrous feats. He was 4-9 with a 4.61 ERA when he no-hit San Diego last year. This time, he entered the game with a 5-5 record and a 4.90 ERA, having surrendered 87 hits in 82 2/3 innings.
Lincecum, who owns a 95-75 career record, delivered a timely triumph. Tuesday, Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti met with San Francisco's starting pitchers to discuss their recent slump and remind them that the club's success depends largely on them. Giants starters posted a 5.63 ERA while the team lost 11 of 14 games preceding Wednesday. Also, their 5.05 ERA in June entering Wednesday was the Majors' second-worst, behind only Colorado's 7.08.
"Our pitching staff as a whole has been scuffling," Lincecum said. "I'm not saying I needed to do that, but to be a part of something like that was fun."
The Padres didn't come close to mustering a hit. Collaborating with Hector Sanchez, who has become his personal catcher, Lincecum struck out Will Venable and Everth Cabrera, the first two hitters he faced. Though Lincecum finished with the relatively low total of six strikeouts, his dominance of Venable and Cabrera established a pattern that would continue throughout the overcast afternoon.
"I'm not just saying this," said an earnest Bochy. "Early in the game I said, 'He's got a chance to throw a no-hitter.'"
The only remotely close calls weren't close at all. Venable hit a fly ball to left-center field with two outs in the third inning that created minor drama as left fielder Michael Morse cut in front of center fielder Gregor Blanco to make the catch. One inning later, Seth Smith hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Buster Posey, who barely had to move to step on first base for the out. Shortstop Brandon Crawford's four assists included Medica's fifth-inning grounder deep into the hole. Crawford was awaiting the ball and retired Medica by a step with a typically strong throw.
Lincecum, who occasionally compromises himself with inflated pitch counts, conserved his energy by throwing six pitches in the third inning and seven pitches in the seventh. He realized what was developing, but refused to dwell upon it.
"I was just trying to keep it out of the forefront of my brain and focus on what I had going," he said.
Lincecum also supported himself by hitting a rare pair of singles. After Crawford tripled and scored in the second inning against Padres starter Ian Kennedy (5-9), Lincecum singled to lead off the third and came home on Pablo Sandoval's double. Lincecum, who entered the game batting .045 (1-for-22), singled to open the seventh and scored along with Hunter Pence as Posey doubled off Tim Stauffer to complete a 4-for-4 day.
The conclusion seemed almost inevitable. Lincecum dispensed with a pair of pinch-hitters, striking out Chris Denorfia and coaxing Yasmani Grandal's weak chopper. Up came Venable, who connected with a 1-2 slider and hit a routine grounder to second baseman Joe Panik. Appearing in only his fifth big league game, Panik handled the play smoothly to seal history.
"I was expecting it," Panik said of Venable's ground ball.
Lincecum was engulfed immediately after Posey caught Panik's throw. The Giants celebrated near first base, bouncing rhythmically in a group hug and basking in their teammate's glory. Almost unnoticed, bullpen coach Mark Gardner gathered the rosin bag for posterity. Soon came a double-barrelled energy-drink onslaught, with Cain and Javier Lopez each emptying a bucket of beverages upon Lincecum.
Thus ended the effort that made Lincecum the second pitcher to no-hit the same team more than once. Cleveland's Addie Joss subdued the Chicago White Sox in 1908 and '10.
Lincecum plans to absorb his achievements steadily.
"Right now, I guess I can just say it's really cool," Lincecum said. "I guess when I get older I'll be able to reflect on that a little bit more and take it for what it's worth."