Giants 9, Padres 0

The Freak is back.

Tim Lincecum tossed aside his recent struggles and pitched his

first career no-hitter and the second in the majors in 11 days, a

gem saved by a spectacular diving catch by right fielder Hunter

Pence in the San Francisco Giants’ 9-0 win over last-place San

Diego on Saturday night.

Lincecum has won two Cy Young Awards and two World Series rings.

Now he has something really remarkable – a no-hitter in which he

threw a whopping career-high 148 pitches.

”Right now I think I’m just kind of coming down and don’t know

where to be emotionally,” a calm Lincecum said.

The slightly built right-hander was in control from his first

pitch until his last, which settled into left fielder Gregor

Blanco’s glove and set off a wild celebration in front of a

pro-Giants crowd at Petco Park.

Catcher Buster Posey wrapped Lincecum (5-9) in a bear hug and

lifted him off the ground. Lincecum was then mobbed by his

teammates behind the mound and doused with water.

Blanco, who caught Yonder Alonso’s fly ball to end the game,

found Lincecum in the mob and handed him the ball.

Lincecum, who witnessed Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter against San

Diego in 2009 and Matt Cain’s perfect game last year, was given a

champagne shower by his teammates in the clubhouse.

”It’s pretty surreal for me just to be part of that,” Lincecum

said. ”Obviously I got to see a couple with Jonathan’s and Cain’s

perfect game, but to be in the middle of it is a little different.

I think I’m still kind of pinching myself right now.”

Lincecum struck out 13. He walked four and hit a batter.

Still, he needed some help to preserve his no-no. Pence caught

Alexi Amarista’s sinking liner with a full dive to end the eighth.

Lincecum pumped his fist as Pence excitedly jumped up and with the

ball in his glove. Amarista put his hands to his helmet and pulled

it off in disgust.

”That was really special. To be honest with you, I thought that

was a hit off the bat by Amarista,” Lincecum said. ”But Hunter

comes flying out of nowhere and makes the Superman catch. That was

awesome.”

Pence said he “just laid out and reached as far as I could and

happened to just get there. I would say the whole game was one of

the greatest feelings and greatest things to be a part of.”

Said Amarista: ”He got to the ball.”

Lincecum’s 148 pitches were the second most thrown in a

no-hitter since at least 1988, according to STATS.

Edwin Jackson needed 149 pitches for his no-no for Arizona in

2010.

Lincecum had 103 going into the seventh and might’ve saved his

shot at history with an 11-pitch inning.

”You don’t see a pitcher up over 140 pitches in a no-hitter

often,” Posey said. ”You get fatigued.”

Posey noted that Lincecum threw more than 200 pitches all night,

including 40 in the bullpen warming up pregame and then eight

pitches before each inning.

”It takes a toll on your body, so for him to be able to

continue to execute pitches is remarkable,” the catcher said.

Manager Bruce Bochy said he had pitching coach Dave Righetti –

who threw a no-hitter for the New York Yankees on July 4, 1983 –

check on Lincecum the last few innings.

”I’m superstitious at that point,” Bochy said. ”I’m not going

to say anything. There was no way he was coming out. I was just

praying he didn’t hit the 150 mark.

”He was just right on all night with all his pitches,” Bochy

said.

Lincecum was in a season-long funk. He was the loser when

Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey no-hit the Giants on July 2.

Pablo Sandoval did his part, too, when he made a nice backhanded

play on pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman’s grounder deep behind third base

and threw him out for the third out of the seventh.

Lincecum had been struggling coming in, losing his previous four

decisions and hadn’t won since June 4 against Toronto. He hadn’t

won on the road since April 3 at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then

again, he’d gotten only 12 runs of support in his last 10

starts.

The crowd gave Lincecum a standing ovation as he headed to the

mound for the ninth.

Lincecum struck out Chase Headley and then retired Carlos

Quentin and Alonso on fly balls to left.

Lincecum tossed the 15th no-hitter in franchise history and

seventh since the Giants moved to San Francisco after the 1957

season. Matt Cain was perfect last June.

The Padres remain the only team without a no-hitter.

Lincecum lost 15 games last year and ended the season as a

reliever – and a reliable one at that. He cut his hair short in the

offseason, a new look as he started anew. He worked out with a

personal trainer during the winter to add about 10 pounds of

strength, and tweaked his mechanics.

Padres manager Bud Black said Lincecum was mixing his fastball,

splitter, curve and cutter.

”He’s evolved,” Black said. ”He knows how to pitch. He keeps

his poise. He has us off-balance all night.”

The Padres lost for the 18th time in 21 games and dropped a

season-high 13 games under .500.

”We haven’t been swinging the bats like we’re capable,” Black

said. ”We’re not pitching. There’s a lot of things we’re not doing

well. The last 2 1/2 weeks have been unacceptable. We just haven’t

gotten it done.”

While Lincecum dominated the Padres, the Giants jumped all over

San Diego’s Edinson Volquez (6-8).

Posey and Sandoval had three hits apiece. Pence hit a three-run

double and finished with four RBIs against Volquez, and then

homered off Joe Thatcher leading off the eighth.

Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run an estimated 414 feet into

the sandy play area beyond the fence in right-center in the fourth

inning.

Volquez allowed eight runs and nine hits in five innings, struck

out six and walked one. He threw 107 pitches.

NOTES: The four-game series concludes Sunday with a matchup of

lefties. Barry Zito, who went to high school in San Diego, is

scheduled to start for San Francisco and Eric Stults is scheduled

to start for the Padres.