For a while Thursday, the guessing, from the press box, to the box seats and each of the dugouts, was squarely aimed at Lincecum: Would he throw his first no-hitter?
For a while, at least, it appeared Lincecum was well on his way. He wore down in the seventh, however, allowing three runs on three hits in what would become a 9-3 victory over the Padres.
Lincecum (10-2) rolled through the first six innings, mixing his fastball, slider, changeup and a curveball -- especially early in the count, something the Padres did not anticipate -- tying the Padres (35-50) in knots.
It wasn't until Tony Gwynn broke up the no-hitter with a clean, opposite-field single to left to start the seventh inning that the Padres, already trailing by six runs, started to show signs of life. They would get two more hits in the inning and three runs, snapping Lincecum's scoreless innings streak at 29, before the righty left the game after 6 2/3 innings.
"All three pitches for strikes, he can locate all three strikes anywhere," Gwynn said. "... And he rarely ever misses up with his changeup. If he misses with his location, he's usually OK, because the ball is down. It might as well be a split-finger.
"The ball just dives. If you've got command of all three pitches and you throw 95 mph, it makes it a lot more difficult on the hitters."
San Francisco catcher Bengie Molina -- who had a two-run home run off Padres pitcher Josh Geer in the first inning -- was asked after the game if he thought Lincecum had no-hit stuff.
"With the stuff he has, it could happen anytime." Molina said.
Lincecum faced three batters in the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He had two walks over those first six innings, but his pitch count -- 77 pitches in six innings -- was still manageable, despite the eight strikeouts.
In the sixth inning, Lincecum struck out the side, setting down Luis Rodriguez with six pitches, getting reliever Luis Perdomo on three pitches and then expending six pitches to fan leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera.
At that point, just about everyone started thinking about a no-hitter. For the Padres, it was a matter of survival, not wanting to be the team on the wrong end of a no-no.
"You definitely don't want to get no-hit. For me personally, I've been a part of a team that's been no-hit before," said Gwynn, who was a member of the Brewers in 2007 on the day when Detroit's Justin Verlander no-hit Milwaukee.
"I didn't want it to happen twice, and I don't think the guys wanted to, either."
Gonzalez, who followed Gwynn with a single of his own in the seventh inning, said that "you don't want to be embarrassed, even if it's Lincecum."
"After I gave up that first hit, it was like it came in the first inning or the third inning," Lincecum said. "You just have to buckle down and get to the next batter. I didn't make great pitches against Adrian; I left a changeup up."
The Padres would get three runs in the inning, but the Giants (47-38) scored three runs in the eighth inning to break the game open.
Lincecum's counterpart, Geer, didn't enjoy nearly as good of a roll, allowing the home run to Molina and then consecutive home runs in the fifth inning to Travis Ishikawa and Juan Uribe. Geer has now allowed a National League-leading 22 home runs.
"At this level, you've got to keep the ball down," said Geer, who allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Lincecum had no such trouble. His changeup darted just before reaching the plate. His curveball and slider had devastating breaks to them. And, of course, he had his 95 mph fastball to lean on when he got in a bind.
"He's a great talent. He's been on a nice roll lately. You could tell early in the game he had all his pitches working. You can see why he's put up the numbers he has." Padres manager Bud Black said.