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Lincecum shows Cy Young form for Bees

Former All-Star allows one hit over seven shutout innings, fans eight
June 13, 2016

Tim Lincecum's road back to the Majors has taken on a homecoming theme while he pitched for Triple-A Salt Lake. First came a June 2 start in Tacoma in the shadows of his hometown and on Sunday, his travels took him back to Fresno, where he made five starts in 2007 for the then-Giants affiliate before his big league career took off in San Francisco. 

"These fans have been always good to me," Lincecum said. "I try to return that. I don't take it for granted. It's pretty crazy. The baseball community is big here. There's a lot of following obviously for San Francisco. It's pretty great. It's just fun to have that kind of support out here when I'm trying to remake myself."

The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner provided a glimpse into his past with his best performance for the Bees. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out eight over seven scoreless innings before Fresno edged Salt Lake, 1-0. The crowd of 10,192 at Chukchansi Park was the Grizzlies' the fourth-largest this season. 

And most of the fans came to see Lincecum, who told reporters afterwards that Sunday night's outing was his final Minor League tune up and that he was ready to join the Angels.

"It's a little different," he said. "I'm in a different place. I'm not trying to make my path anymore, I'm trying to re-create it. I feel like the three starts I had definitely got me ready."

In his third start for Salt Lake, the 10th overall pick in the 2006 Draft struck out the side in the first. He retired the first 13 batters before walking Danny Worth in the fourth and did not yield a hit until Tyler Heineman singled leading off the sixth. Lincecum mishandled Eury Perez's sacrifice attempt for an error that put two runners on. But the four-time National League All-Star got Astros No. 28 prospect Andrew Aplin to bunt into a double play before retiring Worth on a fly ball to center.

Lincecum retired Fresno in order in the seventh, striking out Astros No. 19 prospect Jon Kemmer with his 89th and final pitch.

The Washington native was far more efficient on Sunday than he had been in his first two starts for Salt Lake. Working his way into form after undergoing left hip surgery last September, Lincecum pitched five innings in each of those starts, allowing seven runs -- five earned -- on six hits and five walks with 11 strikeouts. He's trying to get back on a Major League mound for the first time since June 27 when he was with San Francisco. 

"I just need to throw more strikes," he said after his first start on June 2. "My stuff showed that I can play and I can get outs in the zone. As long as I stay there, that's going to benefit me the most. I know you get in trouble when you get behind in counts, you put guys on base. I know I've been able to get out of situations like that, but you try to limit those situations so you can go deeper into games. That's what I'm looking for."

While most of the attention was on Lincecum, Fresno's Brady Rodgers (4-3) actually outpitched his more established counterpart. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed two hits and struck out eight over eight innings to win his fourth consecutive start. 

The Grizzlies scored the game's only run in the eighth when Angels No. 22 prospect Jose Valdez (0-1) committed a balk with runners at second and third.

Astros No. 20 prospect James Hoyt fanned two in a perfect ninth to record his Pacific Coast League-leading 12th save.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB