SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Tim Lincecum has tweaked his delivery, altered his workload between starts, changed his diet, and even his hair, trying just about anything in recent years to rediscover his old Cy Young form.
Maybe his first career no-hitter will do the trick at last.
“I think any time you throw that well, which he’s been throwing the ball well even before that, should do a lot for his confidence,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s in a good place. His delivery and where he’s at as far as confidence, I like where Timmy’s at.”
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner will pitch again Monday night for the Giants against the Cincinnati Reds, giving the home fans at AT&T Park a chance to cheer his July 13 no-hitter at San Diego that provided the first-half highlight for the reigning World Series champions.
Lincecum took some time to celebrate the latest special moment in what has become an up-and-down career, albeit not for long.
The right-hander returned to his hometown of Seattle during the All-Star break for some relaxation and time away, relishing that remarkable 148-pitch gem.
Now, he’s sticking to his mantra of not getting too high or too low about a particular outing and moving on to the next with the same, steady approach. He’ll be pitching on eight days rest Monday.
“I had my time to enjoy it and celebrate it with my family and friends. That time has passed and it’s time to move on and get ready for my next start,” Lincecum said.
Lincecum has increased his workload between starts, rediscovered his consistent delivery and found himself in a nice groove again – at last, a month after turning 29.
“I’m happy with the progress that I’ve made and the differences and the changes I’ve made to my preparation in between starts to kind of help put me in the situation I’m at,” he said. “I’m not saying the no-hitter or anything like that, but with confidence going out there and with a lot more conviction in my pitches.”
He is 5-9 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts for the Giants (45-52), but that history-making win against the Padres snapped a six-start winless stretch in which he went 0-4.
This is the same guy whose problems a year ago earned him a bullpen spot for the postseason rather than a familiar place in the rotation. He shined in the new role, though made it clear he planned to work back to the top form he exhibited at Petco Park.
“He threw a great game, but not just that, how tough he was – 148 pitches ain’t easy,” fellow pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said. “It should be a real good confidence booster for him going into the second half. That was an impressive outing, 148 pitches or not.”
Lincecum is still looking for his first win against the Reds (55-43) in his fifth try after giving up three runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-0 loss at Cincinnati on July 2. He’s 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA in the series.
Not that he is thinking about such statistics or any hype surrounding his no-no, the 15th in franchise history and No. 7 since the franchise moved West to San Francisco in 1958.
Getting back on track takes time, something he has stressed with each start and each positive step he makes.
“I knew this was going to be a process and it was going to take time,” Lincecum said. “It just goes back to believing in yourself and believing in what that’s going to take to get through it. I’m not saying that I’m through anything or trying to make it through anything. I’m just trying to get better every day, whether it’s coming in here and studying more or making sure I’m on top of my relationship with my catcher and the things I want to try to do.”
The Reds won their first two against Pittsburgh over the weekend before losing Sunday’s finale 3-2, dropping their deficit to five games behind St. Louis in the NL Central and three behind the Pirates for the first wild card.
They have a 4 1/2-game lead for the second wild-card spot, but now hit the road for an 11-game trip. Cincinnati is 5-11 in its last 16 games away from Great American Ball Park.
Bronson Arroyo (8-7, 3.42) has a 4.98 ERA on the road, nearly double his 2.58 home mark, but he was outstanding in his latest start in enemy territory. The right-hander held Atlanta to three hits and a run over seven innings July 12 in a 4-2 win.
He’s 6-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his last nine starts against NL opponents, and there might be no one manager Dusty Baker would rather turn to in this situation. The Reds are 8-0 in Arroyo’s starts this season following a loss.
“I try not to pitch any different, but to be honest, sometimes there’s an urgency to the mood in the clubhouse,” Arroyo told the team’s official website. “This game is very difficult and nobody can go out there and just say, ‘I’m going to win the ballgame today.’ So it’s partly probably luck and a bit of trying to just really want to not let your ballteam slide downhill again.”
Lincecum also will be trying to help his team bounce back from a loss after the Giants failed to complete a sweep of Arizona with Sunday’s 3-1 loss.
Bochy knows Lincecum will be ready, even after the highest pitch count of his career.
“You enjoy it, you savor the great outings but you have to understand you put that behind you and you have to be ready to go the next day, whether you’re a position player or a pitcher,” Bochy said.
“If you have a rough outing, you’ve got to wash that one off.”