Sunday, July 14, 2013
Could Tim Lincecum's No-Hitter Be a Turning Point?
The San Francisco Giants, losers of eight of their last 11, badly needed a spark.
They may have been ignited by the San Diego Padres and Tim Lincecum.
The Freak hurled 148 pitches to accomplish the 15th no-hitter in franchise history. The result was a team-wide spirited celebration at the pitchers mound that started with a sneak-attack bear hug by catcher Buster Posey to Lincecum.
Could the sweep at the hands of the New York Mets truly have been rock-bottom? Is this the turning point the Giants have been looking for?
The team needed something to give them energy--some hope--but recent history may dictate that the no-hitter may not matter too much.
Last year, after Matt Cain's June 13 perfect game, the Giants went 2-5 in the games after the no-hitter. That included a June 14 loss to the Houston Astros 6-3 on the next day.
After Jonathan Sanchez's July 10, 2009 no-hitter, the Giants won the next game 2-1, but lost the next six-out-of-seven after that.
And how did the Reds do after Homer Bailey's no-hitter about a week-and-a-half ago? They are 4-6 since then.
The difference among those others teams is they were well above .500 at the time of their no-hitters. The Giants have no time for the hangover effect--every game right now is too important.
After the no-hitter, the Giants are still seven games below .500, and six-and-a-half games behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. The Giants have put themselves in a position in mid-July where they have to get closer to .500 fast--and it starts with taking advantage of a struggling Padres team by sweeping them in four games.
If there's one thing on the Giants' side going forward, it's that the no-hitter lifted and energized a team that was badly struggling--and well under .500. Today's game means going into the All-Star break eight games or six games below .500--and the latter sounds much better.
The Giants should celebrate the no-hitter, but they can't get complacent. Winning three-out-of-four in San Diego keeps the Giants alive, but a four-game sweep would put them truly right back in the National League West race.
Lincecum (5-9) has evolved from thrower to pitcher. He carved up the Padres in a completely different way than vintage Lincecum would have.
Instead of blowing hitters away with a mid-90s fastball, Lincecum relied on good location with all of his pitches. Just like Homer Bailey threw almost exclusively fastballs to Giants hitters late in the game at the time of his no-hitter, Lincecum threw change-up (or splitter) after change-up.
Lincecum was just as effective.
More importantly, this proved to him that he could still be a premiere pitcher without a blazing fastball. It will give him confidence going forward and teach him how to pitch to contact.
Even so, as long as he has that change-up, the strikeouts will be there when he needs them. He had 13 in his no-hitter last night.
It's good to see the Giants' offense finally return to something more normal. In the first inning, Pablo Sandoval turned on a 94-mph fastball and raked a RBI double.
Brandon Belt, who looked overmatched at the plate, also turned on a good fastball. Instead of swinging and missing, like he has been doing almost automatic, he ripped a 95-mph fastball over the right-center-field fence for a two-run home run.
The hitters' timing is coming back.
The Giants cannot stop now. Barry Zito (4-6, 4.62) will take on Eric Stults (7-7, 3.50), who threw a complete-game shutout against the Colorado Rockies in his last start.
They need to keep playing good baseball and battle if they want to get back over .500.
It starts by kicking a team that is down, like the Padres--meaning a sweep. There are no more mulligans if you are seven games below .500 and are serious about climbing out of the hole.
Stats from ESPN.com.
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Posted by Vince Cestone at 12:33 PM