Programming note: Watch the re-air of Tim Lincecum’s first no-hitter against the Padres tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.
When you think back to the 2013 Giants, you might remember the phrase “rock bottom.” The reigning champs had a rough May and a long losing streak at the end of June, and when they got no-hit by Homer Bailey on the second night of July, Bruce Bochy threw his hands up in the visiting clubhouse and sighed.
“Hopefully this is rock bottom,” he said quietly that night. “You hope this is as low as it gets.”
That was not the low point for a team that would finish 10 games under .500. Most of the rest of the season was a struggle, but Tim Lincecum did provide a bright spot a few days after Bailey’s no-hitter. Lincecum had been the opposing pitcher that night in Cincinnati, and two starts later he threw an astounding 148 pitches while no-hitting the Padres.
It was the first of two no-hitters for Lincecum, who became the first pitcher in 107 years to be on the losing end of a no-no and then throw the sport’s next one.
He also joined a remarkable list that night. Lincecum, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer are the only pitchers in MLB history with two Cy Youngs, two World Series titles and a no-hitter.
That game will air tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area. You surely remember the 148 pitches, and you likely remember Hunter Pence’s saving catch. But here are some things you might have forgotten about a special night at what was then jokingly known as AT&T Park South …
Lincecum was simply different, and he never iced his arm as he was growing up and later establishing himself as one of the world’s best pitchers. He didn’t do it after 148 pitches, either.
“Nope, no ice,” Lincecum said the next morning. “Not even in the drinks I didn’t have last night.”
Lincecum had a muted celebration, watching movies with his girlfriend and hanging out with their two dogs. He also called his dad, Chris, who molded him into one of the most unique pitchers the game has seen.
The pitch count was a big deal the night of the no-hitter and again the next day. But Lincecum insisted that he felt fine. Bruce Bochy still had a request, though.
“I said, one time can you ice it?” Bochy said the next day. “But he feels great.”
This was when Buster Hugs really became a big deal. The day after Lincecum’s first no-hitter, Giants fans started passing along an awesome graphic created by a fan named Jeremy Sasson.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 14, 2013
That’s an image you’ve probably seen a lot over the past seven years, but it wasn’t as much of a talking point before Posey’s awesome reaction to Lincecum getting that 27th out. That still might be the best Buster Hug.
Part of the reason why that moment was so special was because of the dumb and constant speculation that Lincecum and Posey had some sort of feud. It ramped up because Lincecum, in his later years, was so often caught by Posey’s backup. With his fastball diminished, Lincecum relied heavily on a slider and changeup that could lead to a long day for opposing hitters, but also the catcher who was constantly blocking balls in the dirt.
Bochy preferred that the beating be taken by the backup when possible, not his best hitter. Lincecum referenced that whole situation when he met with reporters the next morning.
Lincecum on Buster “feud”: “Yeah, it looked like we were so angry at each other when he picked me up on the mound.”
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 14, 2013
A strange time for the roster
Remember the Jeff Francoeur Era? It officially started that day. Francoeur had been released by the Royals and signed by the Giants a few days earlier, and he was officially activated before Lincecum’s no-hitter. Check out this incredible series of roster moves:
Machi and Noonan optioned, Chris Heston designated for assignment. Casilla comes off DL and Francoeur is added to roster.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 13, 2013
Francoeur would make his Giants debut the day after the no-hitter, but he hit just .194 for them and was released in late August. Chris Heston, of course, worked his way back and got his own Buster Hug.
The old Freak
Lincecum had been an All-Star the first four full seasons of his career, but he took a sharp downturn in 2012, posting a 5.18 ERA. The next year was better, but still not anywhere close to the standard he had set and would never return to. Lincecum had a 4.37 ERA in 2013 but he looked a lot like his old self for a stretch leading up to the no-hitter.
Lincecum had started to study hitters more closely and mix up his repertoire, and during an eight-start stretch from the start of June through that no-hitter, he had a 3.16 ERA. Opponents hit just .225 off him and he struck out 57 batters in those 51 1/3 innings. Against the Padres, he had a career-high 29 swings and misses.
Lincecum had nine days off after the no-hitter because of the All-Star break. He gave up eight runs in his first start of the second half.
A nervous reliever
When Matt Cain threw his perfect game in 2012, right-hander Shane Loux warmed up in the batting cage so Cain wouldn’t see him. There’s nowhere to hide at Petco Park, but rookie Jake Dunning did his best to stay out of Lincecum’s field of vision as he twice warmed up in the bullpen beyond the wall in left-center. He said he wanted no part of that game.
Dunning had been called up June 16 and saw two no-hitters in his first month in the big leagues.
“The guys keep telling me that it’s not always like this,” he joked after Lincecum’s gem.
Over the years, Bochy often referred to that 148-pitch night when asked about other massive workloads. He would joke, “I let Timmy throw 148 …” but on that night, there was never any doubt that Lincecum would finish.
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“He wouldn’t have talked to me the rest of the year if I took him out,” Bochy said. “There was no chance.”
Pitching coach Dave Righetti spoke to Lincecum before the final two innings but he insisted he was fine and feeling strong. Only one other pitcher had thrown more than 148 pitches in a no-hitter over the previous 25 seasons. It’s something you’ll never see again, but there were no regrets in 2013.
“He’s had to deal with a lot, so I couldn’t be happier for him,” Bochy said that night. “The pitch count put me in a tough spot, but you don’t get these opportunities often. I let him go.”