As he eases into a less-dominant phase of his career, there s one team Tim Lincecum can count on to bring out his best: The San Diego Padres.
Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young-winning prodigy turned 30-year-old struggling veteran, pitched his second no-hitter in as many seasons against the Padres, efficiently dominating the worst-hitting team in the major leagues in a 4-0 victory Wednesday at San Francisco s AT&T Park.
This time, it was far less of a struggle.
Lincecum needed 148 pitches - walking four and hitting a batter - to no-hit the Padres on July 13, 2013.
He also struck out 13 that night, the first time all season he even reached the eighth inning. He entered the ninth at 138 pitches. Wednesday s gem was less dominant, but easier on the arm.
Lincecum walked just one and struck out six, completing the no-hitter in 113 pitches. He became just the fourth active pitcher with multiple no-hitters, joining Mark Buehrle, Justin Verlander and Homer Bailey.
He came into this start struggling, as well - just 5-5 with a 4.90 ERA in the first year of a two-year, $35 million contract. But the Padres are a natural to bring out his best, and not just because of last year s gem. They entered Wednesday last in the National League in runs and batting average (.216).
And they seemed to sleepwalk through this matinee. Lincecum s lone blemish was a one-out walk issued to Chase Headley in the second inning.
Early in the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, I thought he had a chance to throw a no-hitter. I just want to thank him for making this one a lot less stressful.
There was little tread on Lincecum s tire - just 97 pitches - entering the ninth. He quickly threw two balls to Chris Denorfia, but battled back to strike him out on a diving slider in the dirt. He got Yasmani Grandal to bounce back to the mound for the second out, and then retired Will Venable on a grounder to second to end it.
It was the third no-hitter in the major leagues, the first two authored by Los Angeles Dodgers starters Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw. With the halfway point of the season, the pace of no-hitters is just off the pace of 2012, when seven no-hitters were tossed, including three perfect games - one by Lincecum s teammate, Matt Cain.