It took a whopping 148 pitches, but Tim Lincecum recorded his first career no-hitter Saturday in the Giants’ 9-0 victory over the Padres.
It was the most pitches thrown in a game since Edwin Jackson got to 149 in his no-hitter for the Diamondbacks on June 25, 2010 and the second most since 2005. Lincecum’s previous career high was 138 pitches in a four-hit shutout, also against the Padres, back on Sept. 13, 2008.
Lincecum struck out 13, matching the second highest total of his career. His previous high was 15 in a complete game against the Pirates in 2009. It was his sixth career shutout.
With the Giants struggling of late — at least until they ran into the Padres — Lincecum’s name has been bandied about as a trade possibility of late. One wonders just how the huge pitch count will play into that. After Jackson threw his 149 pitches in 2010, he went five straight outings without turning in a quality start. Lincecum’s win tonight was his first in his last seven starts, though he did pitched better in June than he did the first two months of the season. The Giants also have the ability to give him plenty of rest after this one, what with the All-Star break set to begin.
But let’s not the pitch count overshadow the performance. Lincecum certainly wasn’t worried; he threw a 3-2 curve to walk Everth Cabrera on his 125th pitch of the night in the eighth. Alexi Amarista then came the closest of any Padre to getting a hit tonight; lining out to a sliding Hunter Pence in right field. It wasn’t only Lincecum’s first shutout in a long time, but it was his first complete game since May 21, 2011, when he pitched a three-hitter against the A’s. It had been almost exactly a year — since July 14, 2012 — that he had lasted more than seven innings in a start.
Lincecum is now 5-9 with a 4.26 ERA for the season. He’s tied for sixth in the NL with 125 strikeouts.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.