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Better Loved From Afar

I love Tim Lincecum, I really do [1]. I love that perfect motion of his — my description of it last year was “the equation that solves a knotty physics problem, and leaves you smiling at the elegance and beauty of the answer,” which I’m not going to improve on. I love his God-given talents, his individuality, his doggedness, and most of all the fact that he somehow sailed through the anonymizing factory that is minor-league baseball without some idiot pitching coach ruining him or enough people deciding he was too small to meet their definition of success and so denying him any chance at it. Lincecum was so good so quickly that nobody had a chance to fuck him up, and now he sits atop the pitching mountain, walking on his hands before games and not bothering to ice his arm after starts, happily out of reach of the ligament-shredding groupthink that Organized Baseball calls wisdom. (The fact that Lincecum is nicknamed the Freak tells you everything you need to know about baseball and new ideas.) My goodness I love him.

Important caveat, though: I love him a lot more when he’s tormenting somebody else.

Lincecum didn’t look that good early — he was a bit wild, a bit out of kilter, and with Chris Capuano gritting his way through the Giants’ order you could at least imagine this was our night, a chance to put an Amish stitch in the grand tapestry recounting the Lincecum Conquest. In the sixth, the thoroughly revitalized Carlos Beltran led off with a double, after which Ike Davis trudged rather unhappily to the plate. Lincecum had fanned Ike twice already, and a third K looked like a question of when, not if — Ike was perilously close to helpless up there. But somehow he MacGyver’ed his way through tapping balls foul and watching balls slip just wide of the plate, fighting back to 3-2 over nine pitches and then serving the 10th neatly up the middle to put runners on first and third. If Ronny Paulino did just about anything it would be 1-1 Mets, and then we’d see.

Unfortunately, the Mets had Lincecum’s attention now. He got Paulino to send a little dandelion puff aloft that Freddy Sanchez converted into an out with a nice sliding catch, somehow springing up and heaving a perfect throw homeward to keep Beltran on third. (Staying put was unquestionably the right call.) Willie Harris then struck out. Let us pause for a deep sigh, a stare heavenward and a moment insisting that WILLIE HARRIS HAS TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE MOMENT THIS YEAR, RIGHT? (If he doesn’t have one soon, can he be crammed into the Boyer-Emaus chute and never spoken of again?) Jason Pridie also fanned, and that was that.

Seriously — that was that. Other than a Beltran single in the eighth, no other Met reached base. In fact, foul balls became the stuff of victory. After Ike’s single, here’s what the Giants did:

As recounted above, Lincecum needed 10 pitches to get Paulino to foul out and fan Harris and Pridie. Seven out of 10 pitches were strikes or went for outs.

In the seventh, Lincecum ended his night by striking out the side on 18 pitches — five balls, 13 strikes.

In the eighth, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo faced four batters. They threw 16 pitches — just three of them balls — in collecting a flyout and two more Ks.

In the ninth, Brian Wilson threw 11 pitches — just one of them a ball — in fanning Josh Thole and Pridie and getting Lucas Duda to foul out for the ballgame [2].

Four innings total, nine Ks, 55 pitches — just 12 of them balls. It was impressive. It was dominant. If you like watching pitchers not overthinking things, changing speeds, and throwing strikes, it was even beautiful.

I sure wish I’d watched it happen to someone else.

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Slightly less depressing: I chatted with New York Magazine’s Will Leitch about the Mets and their confounding lack of no-hitters earlier today. Check out it here [3].