Bruce Bochy remembered stressing out while watching Tim Lincecum labor through the final innings of his 148-pitch no-hitter at San Diego last July. The Giants manager said there was "no chance" of stretching out his starter again Wednesday, even after Lincecum logged five hitless innings.
Not with a blister forming on the tip of Lincecum's middle finger. Not with the Giants owning baseball's best record. And certainly, not with more than half of the season to play.
Instead, Lincecum and five relievers combined on a weird two-hitter to lead the San Francisco Giants to a 5-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
"He worked so hard out there. It was time," Bochy said.
The unconventional performance included 10 baserunners — five walks, two hits, two errors and a hit batter — before an announced sellout crowd of 41,186 at AT&T Park that wanted to cheer history.
Lincecum struck out five, walked four and hit a batter in another wild but effective start. George Kontos (1-0) retired four straight before John Baker singled through the right side of the infield with one out in the seventh against lefty Jeremy Affeldt for Chicago's first hit.
The Cubs hold the longest streak in the majors without being no-hit. The last time it happened to them was 1965, when Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game for the Dodgers.
"What's the cliche? It's a game of inches," Baker said. "I think the Chicago Cubs are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that baseball's a game of inches."
Hector Sanchez hit a two-run double, and three others drove in a run to help the Giants (34-19) extend the best record in the majors. San Francisco has won six of seven after holding the Cubs scoreless in consecutive games.
Edwin Jackson (3-5) gave up two runs on four hits in 5 1-3 innings for the Cubs, who have not won a road series since last September. He struck out nine and walked two.
But for most of a sunny afternoon along the bay, the focus remained on whether San Francisco's staff would complete an improbable no-hitter.
Lincecum had a 32-pitch first inning that ended on Nate Schierholtz's sharp lineout to first baseman Buster Posey with runners on second and third. He tossed another 20 in the second and pitched a perfect third.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner hit Schierholtz and overcame an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford on a grounder in the fourth. And after walking Emilio Bonifacio in the fifth, Lincecum got Junior Lake to ground into a double play.
It was the second straight erratic outing for Lincecum. He walked six in six innings in San Francisco's 6-2 win over Minnesota last Friday.
Lincecum said a tiny blister began forming on the tip of his middle finger in the third. He said it's not serious, but he didn't want to risker further injury.
And with a no-hitter on his resume already, he felt no need to lobby Bochy for another inning.
"I think it's just because I know what our bullpen is capable of," Lincecum said. "I just wanted to get the win today and put up some good numbers today, so it was good."
Jean Machi got two outs on three pitches, Juan Gutierrez allowed a single to Anthony Rizzo in 1 1-3 scoreless innings and Javier Lopez recorded the final two outs in the ninth.
San Francisco supplied support for the pitchers in the late innings.
Pablo Sandoval and Tyler Colvin drove in a run in the sixth, and Sanchez hit a two-run double to highlight a three-run seventh that gave the Giants a 5-0 lead.
Bochy said Sanchez will continue to catch Lincecum most of the season. He said the move is made, in part, to save Posey from the bumps and bruises that often come with catching Lincecum.
"We have a good relationship," Sanchez said, "and we work well together."