PHOENIX -- The Big Freak about to take down Big Six? San Francisco right-hander Tim "The Freak" Lincecum is bearing down on one of the oldest records on Major League books, Christy "Big Six" Mathewson's franchise mark of 267 strikeouts for the 1903 New York Giants. The National League's reigning Cy Young Award winner will take 247 strikeouts into his start vs. Chicago this weekend, one of his remaining two scheduled starts.
But Giants manager Bruce Bochy held out the remote possibility of juggling Lincecum into a third outing -- which would enhance his shot at the record, an opportunity Lincecum would welcome. "I could do that," he said of making a third start on short rest, "but only if it was in the best interest of the team." Lincecum was surprised to be told he was nearing the century-old record -- startling considering he finished only two shy of Mathewson's mark last season, when he led the Majors with 265 strikeouts. "Wow. I was not aware of that," he said. "I don't even know what the record is." Informed, Lincecum said, "So 268 would break it?" Given the Giants' rich pitching history -- in both New York and, since 1958, in San Francisco -- it is remarkable that Mathewson's mark has survived for so long. Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Jason Schmidt -- through the years, none of them has come particularly close. Among that quartet, Schmidt was the high with 251 strikeouts in 2004. "That's a lot of strikeouts, and sounds like the record has been around for a long time," Lincecum said. "Whatever happens happens, but, sure, that's something that could be really special." Lincecum's most recent start came Sunday in Los Angeles, after which 13 games and 14 days remained on the Giants' schedule. Making a third start would require Lincecum to go on three days' rest -- something he has never done in his three seasons with the Giants. Would Bochy accomodate such a record pursuit? "It would depend on how that second [remaining] start went and on our situation," said Bochy, whose club entered Tuesday night's game against the D-backs trailing Colorado by four games in the NL Wild Card race, with 12 games to go. "I wouldn't risk anything at this point just to reach a goal like that. "We still have a chance, and that's what we're looking at, not being concerned with personal goals." On his way to finishing with 265 strikeouts last season, Lincecum did not have the same scheduling flexibility. Indeed, he started the Giants' season-ending game against the Dodgers, striking out 13 in seven innings. Some inflammation in his lower back caused Lincecum to miss one start earlier this month -- a scratch that could again make him fall just shy of Mathewson. Can Lincecum topple the 106-year-old record in those two remaining starts? Sure -- he has often notched 20-plus strikeouts in successive starts during his brief career. And even if he falls short, Lincecum can always claim to be the most economical strikeout master in the Giants' long history. He has worked 211 1/3 innings thus far this season. When Big Six posted that 267 in 1903, it took him 366 1/3 innings.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.