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Monday, April 18, 2011

Lincecum wins match of wits with Tulowitzki

Tim Lincecum's most impressive moment in his gem Monday night came a batter after he'd yielded his first hit with one out in the seventh to the Rockies' Carlos Gonzales.

Troy Tulowitzki, who leads the majors with seven home runs and is considered one of the best right-handed hitters in the National League right now, stood in, hoping to create some Mile-High magic. After losing the no-hitter, maybe Lincecum would lose some focus and the Rockies could start creeping back into the game.

In a park like Coors Field, an eight-run deficit is less lopsided than it appears, especially for a Rockies team that has authored the best record in the N.L. behind a clutch offense led by Tulowitzki.

But this confrontation between a two-time Cy Young and a future MVP -- two of the game's greats at the peak of their game -- was compelling on its own.

Lincecum has mastered Tulowitzki, holding him to a .188 batting average (6-for-32 coming into the game), though Tulowitzki hit his only home run against Lincecum just last year.

Lincecum started off with a 95 MPH fastball that Tulowitzki swung late on and fouled into the right field stands. After that, it was a strict diet of split finger fastballs: five straight. But the star shortstop was able to draw out a full count, fouling off a couple and laying off three.

Tulowitzki had to be looking for another sharp diving, dipping specialty pitch. In his previous at bat, in the fifth, Lincecum struck him out swinging on 2-2 count on a split finger away. This time, it was knee-high paint with cheese -- a 95 MPH dart that locked him up as if it was the first time he'd seen a major league fastball. A called third strike that made Tulowitzki, the $158 million man, look like a chump.

It was pure art camouflaged as brute force. He didn't blow Tulowitzki away so much as he won a match of wits.

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So, Tulowitzki is now 6-for-35 against Lincecum, a .171 batting average.

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