carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

Lincecum's no-hitter gives Giants new hope

Tim Lincecum says he doesn't want to be traded and he bought himself an insurance package by pitching a no-hitter in San Diego on Saturday.

With the 148-pitch, 13-strikeout performance, Lincecum is now posting a 3.16 ERA and averaging a hair less than 10 Ks per nine innings over his past eight starts, re-raising the question: is Timmy back?

The no-no worked in Lincecum's favor in two ways: it showed that he can still be a dominant starting pitcher while giving the Giants enough of a heartbeat to keep the team in the race heading into the second half.

Baseball is a humbling sport and writing about it can be equally humbling. But judging by your emails, tweets and calls into talk radio last week, I wasn't alone when I declared the Giants' season to be dead after a 7-2 shellacking at the hands of the woeful New York Mets on Wednesday.

At 40-50, a second-half surge up the NL West standings seemed highly unlikely and Lincecum looked like fodder for a deadline deal, unlikely to re-sign with the club when he becomes a free agent in the offseason. In baseball, a lot can change in four days, though.

The Giants picked up three straight wins against the Padres and the image of Buster Posey lifting up Lincecum with a bear hug after the final out on Saturday brought back memories of the triumph in Detroit in the World Series eight months earlier. The euphoric celebration, the joyful smiles, the buzz in the dugout slayed the despair that seemed to infect the club and its fan base over the course of a horrid 17-35 stretch.

Despite Sunday's hangover loss to the Padres, the Giants (43-51) have a pulse, only 6½ games back with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks coming to AT&T Park for three games starting on Friday. Unless the team loses another string of games right out of the gates, the Freak is sure to be wearing orange and black for the remainder of the season.

A month ago, Timmy seemed destined to return to the bullpen once Ryan Vogelsong rejoins the rotation, stamping his plane ticket out of The City. Lincecum wants to be a starter and at least a few teams would be willing to bet that he could regain his stuff with a change of scenery in free agency.

But skipper Bruce Bochy can't send him out to the 'pen if he continues to be the Giants' most reliable starter next to Madison Bumgarner. And what if Lincecum throws well down the stretch? Wouldn't it create a headache for the front office?

Lincecum's no-hitter triggered warm memories: the Cy Young awards, the 2010 World Series run, the resurgence of the franchise post-Barry Bonds. Unlike Bonds, Lincecum is the kind of player that fans can snuggle up to; he's lovable, kind and he plays the game with a boyish passion. Realistically, it will be easier to cut ties with him if his struggles return in the second half.

The 15th no-hitter in Giants history ensures that Lincecum will be playing in The City for at least another 68 games. If he makes a comeback in the second half, he might just find a way to save the Giants' season, too.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

GiantsPaul GackleSan Francisco GiantsTim Lincecum

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