I mean, if you were to grade each no-hitter on a degree of difficulty scale from 1 to 10, factoring in the strength of the opponent, the ballpark and the weather, a no-hitter against the Padres at AT&T Park on a gray, hazy day would have to be a 1.
Still ... a no-hitter is a no-hitter, they're always fun and there's always a good story behind each one. Retiring 27 major league hitters without giving up a hit is a terrific accomplishment, even if no-hitters have become more prevalent in recent seasons and even if this one came against one of the worst offensive teams (maybe the worst) in modern history.
For Lincecum, it's a reminder -- despite his ups and downs since 2012 -- that when everything comes together he can still out-think opposing hitters, even if he can no longer blow fastballs by them. Lincecum also pitched a no-hitter last July against the Padres, but that one was in San Diego, so it was nice that this one came in front of a happy home crowd. The two no-hitters were completely different in nature: That first one required 148 pitches as Lincecum struck out 13 and walked four. This one required just 113 as he fanned six and walked one (a second-inning walk to Chase Headley). After the game, Bruce Bochy gave a speech to the team in the clubhouse and joked about Lincecum making this one a lot easier for him by keeping his pitch count down.
Lincecum went to a three-ball count just five times, and his highest-pitch inning was the first, with 18. In the late innings, he looked calm and relaxed and even started a seventh-inning rally that helped the Giants extend a 2-0 lead to 4-0. With the Padres using three different pitchers in that inning, it led to a long break before the top of the eighth. But Lincecum got Headley to ground softly to first for the first out. He fell behind 2-0 to Tommy Medica, and the biggest pitch of the game might have been a 2-1 90 mph fastball that Medica was late on. He popped up to first base on a curveball, and then Alexi Amarista flew out harmlessly to center.
Everything was working well for Lincecum -- when he's on, he's spotting his four-seamer and two-seam sinker on the corners, which sets up his curveball, slider and split/changeup as strikeout pitches. The interesting thing about Lincecum is that even though his ERA is 4.70 since 2012, his strikeout rate has remained above average. If he can get to two strikes, he can still wipe batters out. Of course, he's been a much better pitcher at home these past three seasons: He has a 3.98 ERA and .230 average at AT&T but a 5.59 ERA and .278 average on the road.
Heading into the ninth, the no-hitter seemed inevitable considering the Padres entered the game hitting .216 as a team with a .275 OBP. If that holds, the only team with a lower average would be the 1968 Yankees, who hit .214. The Pads' OBP would be the lowest since 1920. Still, no-hitters are tough to finish off:
— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) June 25, 2014
Pinch hitter Chris Denorfia got ahead 2-0 but took a fastball for a strike, missed a slider and then missed a curveball in the dirt. Yasmani Grandal bounced back to the mound on 3-2 slider. If there's one pitch the Padres would like back, it was the 1-1 91 mph fastball right down the middle to Will Venable that he foul tipped. He then grounded out to second.
So Lincecum has thrown no-hitters in back-to-back seasons against the Padres -- a team that has never thrown a no-hitter. Leading to this tweet:
With Gwynn and Coleman deaths, along with a completely unwatchable team on the field, this has to be he worst Padres season ever
— Jorge Arangure (@jorgearangure) June 25, 2014
A bad day for the Padres. A great day for the little guy with the terrible mustache.