Key ABs back Timmy’s no-no

Requisite Timmy props. But Tim Lincecum’s no-hit gem hinged on two key at bats to spark a four-run rally in the fifth inning, which, I can say with all certainly, stands as my favorite inning of the year so far.

With all due respect to Lincecum’s timeless performance, that fifth inning deserves its own highlight film, complete with narration by iconic NFL Films voice John Facenda, and should serve as a compelling argument against the designated-hitter rule.

Let me explain. With Lincecum cruising on the mound, he led off the top of the fifth with an unlikely walk. While it’s possible Padres starter Edinson Volquez simply overthrew a 3-2 fastball to issue his only walk of the game, it seems more like an intentional strategy on his part to mess with the opposing pitcher’s rhythm by making Lincecum run the bases.

But oh how Volquez’s gamesmanship backfired. After cashing in two quick outs by striking out Gregor Blanco and Marco Scutaro respectively on three pitches each, Buster Posey went to work with a valiant six-pitch at battle which ended with the reigning NL MVP rapping a single to left.

And what seemed to start as an elementary attempt at taxing Lincecum, resulted in Volquez himself getting worn out. The Padres’ right-hander was so gassed by the time Pablo Sandoval batted with two on and two out, Volquez ultimately hung a sinker, which Sandoval drove back through the middle for a single that not only loaded the bases, but almost took Volquez into center field with it.

The aftermath was a bases-clearing triple by Hunter Pence, followed by an RBI knock by Brandon Belt. But the artistry of the inning was exemplified by the Posey and Sandoval at bats. That’s baseball – along with a textbook example of why pitchers batting is essential to the sport.

Obviously Lincecum persevered, as he struck out 13 en route to a 9-0 win and his first career no-hitter. Perhaps what’s more impressive is he set a career-high with 148 pitches, harkening back to his college days with the Washington Huskies, when Lincecum threw 145 pitches in the final game of his prestigious collegiate career, just two weeks before he was drafted by the Giants in 2006.

Lincecum now joins Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain as one of three Giants pitchers to throw a no-hitter in the last five seasons. Posey has caught two of them – Cain’s perfect game last season, and Lincecum’s on Saturday night. Eli Whiteside caught Sanchez’s no-hitter in 2009, which also came against the Padres.

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