Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why we love Baseball and Tim Lincecum

My love for baseball was encapsulated today in 113 pitches 

The no-hitter or perfect game is one of the most beautiful things in sports.  The buildup during the game, after each inning of no-hit ball or perfect frames.  

Today was no different.  After the 3rd inning I was already taking notice.  First of all, this is Tim Lincecum, yeah that guy we all said was finished and never got through the 1st inning unscathed let alone the first three.  So he allowed one walk, and was extremely economical with his pitches. 
Yes, Tim Lincecum was being economical.... who IS this guy?  Memories surfaced of the 148 pitch no-hitter in which Timmy struggled with control, but still struck out guys with wicked stuff.  No this wasn't the same Timmy.  This guy knew how to pitch, he knew where the ball was going and where he needed to locate it.  

This Tim Lincecum was inducing what he said he wanted in spring training, "crappy contact."  The six strikeouts Lincecum got in this game sound pedestrian by his own standards, but he only walked one batter, and his pitch count was no where near as high it was that night not even a year ago in San Diego.

The 5th inning came and went, and the no-hitter was still intact.  In today's world of social media and instant news bites, the buzz surrounding the potential no-hitter began to rumble throughout the twittersphere with silly attempts at informing without "jinxing".   Tim Lincecum has only allowed one baserunner by way of walk, or simply, Timmy has a no-hitter through 5.  Screw the jinx, SOMEONE out there is saying it, why not me?

By the time a no-hitter or perfect game hits the 7th inning, people stop what they're doing.  This has become serious business, if you're not watching go find a TV because we might be witnessing history.  Through 7 innings Timmy had 87 pitches after a Carlos Quentin ground out to short, plenty in the tank for Big Time Timmy Jim.

To put some perspective on that, Timmy had another no-hit outing this year, a 5 inning start against the Cubs on May 28.  In that game, Bochy didn't think twice about pinch hitting for him in the top of the 6th because through 5 innings, Timmy had already thrown 96 pitches.  Today he was through 7 innings in 87 pitches, easy decision for Bochy to let him ride this one out.  

Here's the other thing.  Before this game, Lincecum had a 4.90 ERA and just gotten beat around a bit in Arizona giving up 4 runs in 6 innings, not terrible but not great either.  Last year his ERA prior to his no-hitter was 4.61 and he had not gotten a win in his last 6 starts.  Both years, the Timmy critics have been out in full force wondering aloud whether it's time to send him to the bullpen and make a move for a guy like Jeff Samardzija who could be a front end starter.  

None of that mattered today as Lincecum threw pitch after pitch located beautifully in the lower half of the strike zone and causing that "crappy contact" he so desired.  

As cameras flashed to Lincecum in the dugout we were all reminded not only of our love for this game, but our love for this kid as well, kid being the operative word.  This wasn't some grizzled veteran sitting in solitude on the bench the weight of the no-hitter on his shoulders and eyes glazed over.  This was the Freak, good 'ol Timmy yukking it up with his teammates, laughing and seemingly unperturbed by the pressure that comes along with making history.

Leading off in the bottom of the 7th, Timmy showed how little the pressure was getting to him.  He stepped up against Ian Kennedy who had been pitching very well up til that point and lined a single to left, his second hit of the game, 2 more than the Padres had at that point obviously.  

At this point I just hope that the Giants can either ground into a double play or score him soon so he doesn't have to stand out on the basepaths too long.  Buster Posey did the latter, with a RBI double to center, scoring Timmy and keeping the inning going.  4-0 Giants and maybe some "peace of mind" cushion for Lincecum, not that he needed it.  

The 8th inning was quick, Amarista skied one to left center which provided the most drama if only because it was a long fly ball, but well within the large confines of AT&T park.  3 more outs.  

Lincecum started off the 9th inning with some vintage Timmy.  Changeup that dropped off the table causing Chris Denorfia to flail over the top of it and strike out.  1 down.

The speedy Yasmani Grandal grounded out weakly back to Timmy who put him away with an underhand throw to Posey.  2 down.

With the final out, Lincecum did not seek to end it like he was still that plucky kid winning his first Cy Young award with a 97 mph fastball and devastating change up.  No, this was the 30 year old Tim Lincecum, mustachioed and pitching his way to history.  He threw that slurve he's been perfecting this year, a pitch specifically designed for that "crappy contact" and Will Venable grounded to who other than the rookie Joe Panik who threw to Buster Posey for the final out.  

This game came at a perfect time for the Giants who desperately needed a win, needed a lift, needed some inspiration.  Timmy did all those things for his team and maybe this is the spark they needed to get back on track.  

The beautiful thing about this game is that no matter how bad of a stretch your team is having, no matter how badly you've been pitching, no matter what people are saying about you, a pitcher can make history in just 9 innings.  

Or in Timmy's case, 113 pitches

Laws of the Day

Maybe it's a good thing Timmy will miss Cincinnati this home stand.  After his no-hitter last year his following start he only lasted 3.2 innings and gave up 8 runs to the Reds at AT&T Park, not a great encore.  

In last year's no-hitter, Timmy struck out 13 batters and gave up 4 walks.  Only 6 strikeouts and 1 walk this time around and 35 less pitches.

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