Lincecum flirts with history, settles for win
Giants ace loses no-no, scoreless-inning streak in seventh
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum said that he never began considering the possibility of throwing a no-hitter Thursday night."I didn't think I had very good command of my fastball today, which kind of made things erratic," Lincecum said. Picky, picky. Lincecum was in the vast minority in that regard at AT&T Park, where the right-hander stymied the San Diego Padres until Tony Gwynn's single to christen the seventh inning ended the no-hit bid. Lincecum unraveled afterward and didn't even finish the inning, but the Giants prevailed, 9-3. John "The Count" Montefusco's distinction of being the last Giant to throw a no-hitter (Sept. 29, 1976, at Atlanta) remained safe -- at least until Lincecum's next outing. Everybody who watched Lincecum in his final assignment before Tuesday's All-Star Game -- which he just might start -- probably went home feeling more convinced that he'll someday match Montefusco. "With the stuff he has, it could happen anytime," Giants catcher Bengie Molina said. Lincecum still helped himself to nice servings of history. He extended his scoreless-innings streak to 29, third-best since the Giants moved west in 1958, before yielding all of San Diego's runs. Gaylord Perry owns the two longest streaks, 40 in 1967 and 39 in '70. By winning his fourth consecutive start and sixth in his past seven, Lincecum (10-2) joined Matt Cain (10-2) to form the first pair of Giants pitchers with double-digit win totals before the All-Star break since John Burkett and Bill Swift in 1993. Lincecum thus can depart for St. Louis and the Midsummer Classic feeling satisfied. "Looking at the big picture, I made some big improvements," the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner said. "I kept my walks down a lot more than I used to. I was able to go deeper into games. I try to take the positives away and there were a lot of them that I could grasp." Meanwhile, a no-hitter again eluded Lincecum, who maintained a perfect game for 4 2/3 innings two starts ago at St. Louis. But he looked primed to close the deal against the Padres, whom he had dominated in most of 10 previous starts (1.43 ERA). Through six innings, Lincecum struck out eight, faced one batter above the minimum and allowed two balls to be hit out of the infield. Then Gwynn connected with a 1-2 fastball, stroking it out of left fielder John Bowker's reach. Molina explained that Lincecum wanted to jam Gwynn, but the pitch veered outside.
"He missed his spot, but it was still a good pitch," Molina said.
The crowd, which roared for Lincecum after he struck out the side in the sixth inning and when he batted in the Giants' half, serenaded him with another brief ovation.One pitch before singling, Gwynn hit a foul tip that Molina couldn't grab. To do so would have been virtually impossible.
"You can't control those things," Molina said. "Sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don't. You're trying to catch the ball; you're not trying to catch a foul tip."Gwynn sounded happy just to make contact against Lincecum.
"He can locate all three pitches anywhere. And he rarely ever, ever misses up with his changeups," Gwynn said. "If he misses with his location, he's usually OK, because the ball is down. It might as well be a split-finger. The ball just dives. If you've got command of all three pitches and you throw 95 [mph], it makes it a lot more difficult on the hitters."Lincecum insisted that Gwynn's hit didn't leave him crestfallen.
"After I gave up that first hit, it was like it came in the first inning or the third inning," Lincecum said.But the Padres, who trailed, 6-0, when the seventh inning began, sustained a serious enough rally to chase Lincecum and bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate before Sergio Romo, who issued a bases-loaded walk upon entering the game, retired Evereth Cabrera on a comebacker to end the threat. The Giants amassed three homers, an occurrence for them almost as rare as a no-hitter. Molina belted a two-run homer off Padres starter Matt Geer (1-4) in the first inning before Travis Ishikawa and Juan Uribe combined for San Francisco's first back-to-back homers of the season in the fifth. Pablo Sandoval, who finished a close second in the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote, contributed a two-run double in the fifth. Uribe, Randy Winn and Nate Schierholtz added eighth-inning RBI singles to seal the Giants' third victory in nine games against San Diego.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.