Padres shut down by Giants ace
Young allows three runs in seven innings to take loss
SAN DIEGO -- In some ways, Will Venable was spared. The Padres rookie center fielder only had to face Giants ace pitcher Tim Lincecum once this season, unlike the rest of his teammates who likely had enough of the right-hander in, say, April.
"He's just ...," Venable said, pausing as he searched for the right words to depict an entirely forgettable night at the plate, words that would resonate with teammates. "He's just very good. His fastball is unbelievable and his changeup is a really tough pitch."
Not that they needed to see it again, but the Padres got their final look at Lincecum, who certainly didn't hurt his Cy Young Award chances with his first shutout, as he struck out 12 in a 7-0 victory over the Padres at PETCO Park.
It took a career-high 138 pitches, the most any pitcher in the Major Leagues has tossed in a start this season, but Lincecum (17-3) earned his gem, and the praise of the Padres, who saw him on six occasions this season.
Which was plenty for the Padres, though Lincecum had no issues with it, as he used his previous experiences to his benefit.
"I'm getting better at learning hitters, remembering what happened before, or last at-bat, or what they've had success on against me [so facing them six times is an edge]. ... It's like a constant chess game out there," Lincecum said.
In those six games, Lincecum was 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA in 43 1/3 innings. He allowed 26 hits over that stretch and struck out 49. If not for his three no-decisions, games where he pitched well, Lincecum might be at 20 victories by now.
"He's a stud and he has been all year," said Padres pitcher Chris Young, who was plenty good himself Saturday, striking out nine over seven innings in which he allowed three runs. "He should be right up there [in the Cy Young voting]. He should not be punished because of his team."
The inference there is the Giants (67-81), while certainly having a better season than the Padres, aren't entirely too far north in the standings in front of San Diego. There will be votes that go elsewhere, likely to Arizona's Brandon Webb as well as Milwaukee's CC Sabathia.
"We've seen him a number of times this year. ... He was very good tonight," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "I think this year, the changeup has been a huge plus for him. He's done a great job of developing that changeup. The kid has a lot of talent."
The Padres (57-92) got two of their four hits off Lincecum in the ninth inning, as his pitch count continued to rise. He did allow singles to Kevin Kouzmanoff and Adrian Gonzalez in the last inning but reached back for a 95 mph fastball to strike out Edgar Gonzalez for the final out of the game.
"He's tough," said Venable, 0-for-4 with two strikeouts during his first encounter with Lincecum.
So was Young (5-6), by all counts, as his start Saturday, to some degree, looked a lot like his last start Sunday in Milwaukee where he came within four outs of the first no-hitter in franchise history.
Really, the lone blemish on Young's record was the two-run home run he allowed in the first inning to Bengie Molina on a slider so far down in the strike zone that it looked as though rookie catcher Nick Hundley might have had to smother it in the dirt.
"He was a little out in front; it just kept carrying. It wasn't a terrible pitch," Young said.
That home run was preceded by a nine-pitch at-bat to rookie Pablo Sandoval, who kept his at-bat alive by fouling off six balls before lining a single into right field.
"I felt good; I felt like my location was really good. Sandoval had some great at-bats," Young said.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.