For the second time in less than a year, Tim Lincecum has no-hit the San Diego Padres.
Unlike his effort last July 13, however, this one was an efficient, nothing-but-business affair. Whereas The Freak needed 148 pitches for last year’s effort, he did it in a mere 113 this afternoon, showing total command over all four of his pitches and never giving the Padres a chance in hell to do any damage. San Diego managed one walk — Chase Headley drew it in the second inning — but were otherwise kept off the basepaths. Heck, Lincecum himself had a way better offensive game than his opponents did: he walked once and had two hits.
Lincecum cruised from beginning to end. He needed only 26 pitches in the eighth and ninth innings combined, inducing weak grounders and striking guys out for the most part. Trying to make something happen, the Padres sent up two pinch hitters to start the ninth inning, Chris Donorfia in place of eight hitter Rene River and Yasmani Grandal in the pitcher’s slot. Donorfia struck out and was thrown out at first when Hector Sanchez couldn’t handle strike three. Grandal took the count full but then bounced one back harmlessly to Lincecum who underhanded it to Buster Posey at first for the second out. That brought up Will Venable he took it to 1-2 and then grounded out harmlessly to second. And with that Lincecum had his second career no-hitter.
It’s been a pretty rocky few years for Lincecum. While his Giants won the World Series, 2012 was the worst year of his career, leading the NL in losses and posting an ERA well over 5. After last year’s no-hitter he was shelled pretty frequently and ended the season with a 10-14 record and a 4.37 ERA. Coming in to today, Lincecum was 5-5 with a 4.90 ERA and was allowing more baserunners per inning than he ever had in his major league career.
But whether it is muscle memory from his days of being the NL’s best pitcher, the poor offense of today’s competition or some combination of both, today Lincecum was untouchable.
The final out:
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.