Tim Lincecum is forever reinventing himself. There was the prep-school-short hair, and then the "Dazed and Confused" locks, and now he is somewhere in between. A mustache showed up, approached Super Mario levels and then disappeared, only to resurface a few weeks later. In 2012, he often showed up in tight, European-cut clothes, a picture of fashion. Then the kid from the Pacific Northwest would wear the same backward "W" cap for months on end, or embrace soccer jerseys, or fanny packs.
On the mound, it's the same thing. He arrived with a high 90s fastball and devastating curveball. The fastball is gone, capable only of reaching 93 on a good day, 94 if it's a great day. The curveball comes and goes. The slider has been unhittable at times, then tucked away for starts at a time. The change-up can be devastating, or hung at the letters. When you go from thrower to pitcher, sometimes you take a few wrong turns.
"It's not easy to make that transformation," manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday. "You get a thousand innings in you, your velocity is going to come down. You do have to become more of a finesse pitcher or artist, as he was today. You start hitting your spots and come up with other pitches."
Lincecum has tried to do that. In 2012, maybe he stuck to the old plan a little too much, unaware that his powers had diminished. Last year, he picked up his work between starts, taking notes at the urging of Chad Gaudin and intensely studying hitters. That's continued this year, and Lincecum remains as fit as ever, a gymnast with a glove on his left hand. But the results weren't there. He took a 4.90 ERA to the mound today, and many of his first 15 starts ended with Lincecum talking about mechanics that were out of whack, and Bochy saying he just didn't have it that day. Today, he had it, whatever it is. For Bochy, it was easy to put into words.
"It just looked like he was putting very, very little effort into his delivery," Bochy said. "His delivery, he looked more compact, he looked like he was putting less effort in hitting his spots. He had great concentration and great focus. In the third inning, I said, 'Son of a gun, this guy is really, really locked in.' "
That's when Bochy started thinking no-hitter, and to be fair, that probably had a bit to do with the team in the other dugout. The Padres took a .216 team average into today's game and already had put Lincecum in the history books once. The game story looks at what happened in the late innings, and how it happened.
Here, as always, we ask: Can it happen again? Not a no-hitter. The rhythm, the command of a slider he threw 40 times for 13 outs, the ability to pitch without a big-time fastball. Can he repeat this?
"I don't think you just look at one outing, you look at a lot of outings and consistency," Lincecum said. "I'll take this for what's worth and hopefully the next couple are, I can't say the same, but hopefully are good."
The Giants will hope for the same. Before this game, Bochy said his slumping team needed to turn it around on the mound. He was asking for an improvement, and admitted that the staff met with the manager and pitching coach Dave Righetti. The starters had a 5.05 ERA in June before Lincecum no-hit the Padres, and as always, they'll try to build on this. Lincecum will, too.
"I've always been that guy that's going to go for the strikeout," he said. "My first no-hitter, I had 13, so I was going for those a little more often. Today I tried to be more efficient and take what they'll give me, ground balls and pop flies. Just try to stay focused, and that's obviously the hardest part, in-game focus.
"Today, it all came together."
Sanchez has been a bit of a punching bag around here, and his numbers are way down. But the Giants like what he gives, feel there's more in there, and know that the backup catching scene in MLB right now is a wasteland. So they're pleased with Sanchez, and Bochy made sure to seek him out after the final pitch.
"I told Hector on the field: You'll never forget this moment, you'll be proud of this," Bochy said. "He should feel so good about this because he's such a huge part of what happened today. They did have a good rhythm going today, their flow of the game and everything. They were right on the same page."
Thus, #HectorHugs was born. Although this one wasn't as powerful as Posey's hug in San Diego last year.
"I didn't want to hurt him!" Sanchez said.
Posey wasn't buying that.
"Timmy was prepared this time," he said. "He didn't have his back turned."
It's worth remembering during the down times that Sanchez is still just 24, younger than Adam Duvall, today's call-up. He enjoyed his moment in the sun.
"Anybody wants to be part of something special like this," Sanchez said. "It's a great feeling. In the moment during the game, you don't want to think about that, but after that it's the best feeling in the world -- after winning the World Series."
"I couldn't get words out," he said. "I was at a loss."
He'll wear No. 37 while he's here, and should get a start at first base sometime soon. Duvall is well aware of the fact that AT&T Park is a world away from PCL ballparks.
"My approach is never really to hit homers," he said. "It's a byproduct of catching the ball out front and on the barrel. I'm gap to gap, just really trying to drive in runs."
Yes, he was in the hug line, too, right behind Michael Morse.
About those plate appearances, per ESPN Stats & Info, Lincecum is the first pitcher with multiple hits in a no-hitter since Rick Wise homered twice in his 1971 no-hitter. (That's a freaking day, Rick!) He's the first to reach base three times since Jim Palmer in 1969. Any thoughts on outhitting the Padres 2-0, Timmy?
"Regardless of what they did, I think it's cool that I had two hits," he said. "I got that thing over 100 and I'm feeling a lot better about it."