SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Lincecum described his 148-pitch no-hitter as taking “no toll” on his body or his arm when he ascended the mound Monday night.
But the Reds rang his bell. Again and again and again.
Nine days after his historic and euphoric no-hitter, Lincecum had himself another career first: He gave up eight earned runs in a start for the first time in a big league game. Maybe in his life.
He matched a career high with three home runs allowed in an 11-0 loss to the Reds. He got just six swings and misses. In his no-hitter, he got 28.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t wait for the obvious question to be asked in his postgame session. He jumped right into it.
“Sure, he’s coming off a start where we let him go,” Bochy said. “He had a chance to do something special. It’s hard to measure (the lingering effects of that, the nine days off before he pitched, the Reds hitters … But I think if he gets out of the first inning, it’s a different ballgame.”
Said Lincecum: “I mean, I felt just as normal as I have in recent starts. So there’s no toll.”
It’s not like anyone, in retrospect, will go after Bochy with bloodlust for letting Lincecum finish off one of the most memorable games in franchise history. His no-hitter was more than a personal achievement in a once great, forever endearing career. The no-hitter sent a buzz through a stumbling club, and that jolt had a chance to keep the Giants on a winning edge into the second half.
There are rallying points for every playoff team. And celebrating a no-hitter sure beats cursing Melky Cabrera under your breath.
So there’s no looking back on Bochy’s decision. But there’s also no easy assumption that it’ll be all Happy Lincecum Days into August and September. The lithe little right-hander has struggled with consistency pitch-to-pitch and start-to-start over the past two seasons. Those struggles are not over.
What was he unable to do in 3 2/3 innings against the Reds that he did so well down at Petco Park?
“I think just repeating, you know?” Lincecum said. “I wasn’t consistently hitting spots with my fastball so that meant I had to go to my secondary pitches. I think I just used them up a little too much early and let them see them a little too much.”
Lincecum had to start pitching backwards to try to get out of that first-inning jam – and it nearly worked. He froze Joey Votto with a fastball, made a athletic play (a pitcher outracing a leadoff batter?) to tag out Shin-Soo Choo and only needed to tie up Todd Frazier to earn what would’ve been a foundation-shaking ovation.
But his 1-0 fastball was over the heart of the dish for a bases-clearing double.
“That’s got to be deflating for him,” Bochy said.
Lincecum agreed with that word choice.
“Yeah, I felt like that a little bit because I could have made a different pitch, even gone to a different pitch,” Lincecum said. “But fastball down the middle, he crushed it.”
Lincecum threw a side session on Thursday, when the Giants held a workout. He said he didn’t feel any side effects after throwing the most pitches by a Giant in a game since Vida Blue in 1979.
His stuff was crisp enough in the first inning, but the changeups turned to blobs after that and the fastball barely grazed 90 mph.
If the no-hitter didn’t take something out of Lincecum, that 31-pitch first inning did.
In a way, Lincecum is emblematic of the Giants this season: Enough glimmers of hope to keep you engaged, but not enough of them and not nearly as often as anyone would like.
The Giants’ momentum after winning five of six has been stopped cold in these last two defeats. What about Lincecum’s own momentum? Has that been shorn away as well?
“No, I’ve got to go out there with confidence still,” he said. “This was a little bump and I’ve got to continue to use that game as a springboard. And not just that game but the games prior to that.”