Tim Lincecum thrilled the Giants and their fans by throwing a no-hitter on July 13 against the San Diego Padres. He threw 148 pitches en-route to the seventh no-hitter in San Francisco Giants history.
The question would be how will Lincecum's arm respond after his epic performance. He had never thrown that many pitches in his career.
On the surface, it appeared as though the 148-pitch outing did affect Lincecum. In his next start, yesterday against the Reds, he lasted only three and two-thirds innings and allowed eight earned runs. He also gave up three home runs.
However, it's really difficult to blame this outing on his 148-pitch performance. Lincecum had eight days of rest due to the All-Star break. That amounts to skipping a start.
Lincecum's fastball velocity was decent and in line with what he had been displaying most of the year, at 90-91 mph. He also seemed to be throwing his specialty pitches, his curve, change-up and splitter, well.
The damage was done in the first inning when Lincecum was forced to throw more than 30 pitches.
The Reds' leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo hit a fly ball that should have been caught by left fielder Gregor Blanco. Unfortunately, Blanco misjudged the ball and Choo ended up on second base with a double.
The Reds' next hitter, Derrick Robinson, laid down a bunt that third baseman Pablo Sandoval was slow to react to and threw late to first base. Sandoval, who is extremely overweight, took a long time to get to the ball, enabling Robinson to make it safely to first.
Had the Giants made either defensive play, and they should have made both, the inning and the entire game could have been different.
Instead, Lincecum was in a stress inning immediately. He actually came within one strike of getting out of the jam unscathed but walked Jay Bruce on a very close 3-2 pitch. The next hitter, Todd Frazier, cleared the bases with a double.
Lincecum definitely made some mistakes, especially with his fastball command. A few of his pitches caught too much of the strike zone and when they did, the Reds' hitters made him pay.
The Reds' offense is not the Padres', and if you make a mistake, they will hit it hard.
To attribute Lincecum's poor performance to his 148-pitch outing nine days earlier is a crutch. The eight days of rest should more than make up for that, and his arm was well-rested.
If anything, the extended layoff could have caused the lack of command more than anything.
Baseball players are creatures of habit, and extended days off will affect a pitcher's command, just like it can affect a hitter's timing at the plate.
This is one of those times where we will never really know for sure. However, Lincecum had been throwing the ball well in his last eight starts, and the extended layoff may have done more harm than good.
To attribute his poor start to a tired arm seems like an easy excuse and not one that Lincecum or I would take.