San Francisco is off to a quick start this season, winning three of their first four games, including a thrilling 1-0 extra-inning win over San Diego on Thursday that saw Justin Maxwell knock in the only run of the game during the top of the 12th inning with a two-out single to center that scored Brandon Crawford from second base.
The Padres and Giants will continue their four-game set tonight with first pitch set for 10:10 p.m. EST.
San Francisco has received back-to-back strong pitching performances from rookie right-hander Chris Heston and veteran righty Tim Hudson. The Giants hope Tim Lincecum can run the streak of quality starts to three in a row when he toes the slab tonight.
Lincecum, 30, has struggled since the start of 2013, recording a sub-.500 record of 22-23. But don’t talk to the Padres about the former two-time Cy Young Award winner’s struggles as Lincecum always seems to recapture some of the mystique that earned him the nickname “The Freak” against the Giants National League West rival.
Since making his debut during the 2007 season, Lincecum has made 29 career starts against the Padres, compiling a 16-6 record in those outings. He has also made three relief appearances against San Diego, all coming during last September when Lincecum was removed from the San Francisco starting rotation.
As a starter against the Padres, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound right-hander has compiled 193.2 innings of work, allowing just 5o earned runs. Lincecum’s 2.32 ERA in games he starts against San Diego is benefited by the righty recording no-hitters during each of the last two seasons.
Lincecum recorded his first career no-hitter on July 13, 2013 during a 9-0 San Francisco victory. The former Cy Young Award winner needed 148 pitches to finish off the outing. He was effectively wild in the strike zone on that fateful night, recording 13 strikeouts while walking four batters. The 13 punchouts marked the fifth time in Lincecum’s career that he totaled double-digit strikeouts against the Padres.
The diminutive right-hander followed up 2013’s no-hitter against the Padres with another historical performance on June 25, 2014. But this Lincecum no-no had a far different feel from the first, as he was able to control the strike zone more efficiently, walking one while striking out six.
During his career, Lincecum and strikeouts have gone hand-in-hand. He owns a career 9.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, which only increases when he faces San Diego. As a starter against the Padres, Lincecum has compiled 216 strikeouts in 193.2 innings, which translates to a rate of 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings.
While the strikeouts are great and Giant fans love seeing Lincecum punch opposing hitters out, he has had his fair share of problems commanding the strike zone against San Diego as well, including three starts with five walks. His 3.81 walks-per-nine-innings mark in starts against the Padres also helps account for high pitch totals
The Giants will need Lincecum to be efficient against a San Diego lineup that is far different than any other he has seen before. The additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Will Middlebrooks and Wil Myers during the offseason should provide a great challenge to the San Francisco starter. If spring training has any indication, he should be ready to combat the new San Diego lineup.
In recent years, Lincecum has gotten in trouble by not being able to repeat his unique delivery consistently, which led to pitches not going where they were intended, often over the heart of the plate. To correct this problem, he went back to the orchestrator of his delivery, his father Chris, during the offseason to hopefully recover some of his magic.
During Cactus League action it seemed the hard work Lincecum put into the offseason paid off. Sure his ERA of 5.95 wasn’t great, but he recorded 19 strikeouts in 19.2 innings of work and the numbers might have been better if he hadn’t missed 10 days as a result of neck stiffness.
The Giants will need Lincecum’s reclamation to take another step forward tonight if they hope to keep their quick start going. A quality start for Lincecum could be a springboard to a bounce-back season.