Jason Schmidt (left) credited catcher A.J. Pierzynski with calling a great game. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO -- There's a reason why some pitchers are called aces, why they're in contention for Cy Young Awards, why they're known in the trade as stoppers.
It's more than physical prowess, more than 97 mph fastballs.
It's heart, ice-in-the-veins heroics. It's pitching almost no-hit ball with the team struggling, in a losing streak and still trying to find the tunnel, much less the light at the end of it.
Giants right-hander Jason Schmidt: ace indeed.
If the 31-year-old veteran felt any pressure or burden trying to get San Francisco back on track almost by himself, he never showed it, throwing a brilliant one-hit, 1-0 shutout over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
The timing was perfect, even if Schmidt (4-2) wasn't. The Giants had lost four straight games and nine of their last 12 outings. They were hurting physically and mentally, but last season's 17-game winner and National League Cy Young runner-up was just what the doctor prescribed to soothe them.
Jason Schmidt / P
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
And maybe cure them.
"It's been a struggle to get going this year," said Schmidt, who tied his career high with 13 strikeouts. "For sure this win was huge. We've got to get things going -- we're struggling a bit -- so hopefully this helps."
Amazingly, Schmidt threw 144 pitches, and the only one he wished he had back was that one to Cubs catcher Michael Barrett in the fifth inning, a ball that was chopped slowly past the foul line near third base. Edgardo Alfonzo made a fine stop, but his throw to first was too late.
Ah, what might have been.
The last no-hitter by a Giants pitcher was John Montefusco back in 1976 against the Braves, but the shutout was Schmidt's first since his three-hitter at Los Angeles last June.
It might have happened, too, as the pitch right before Barrett's single could have been called a strike. So very close.
"I thought it was a strike at the time," said Schmidt. "It was a close one and it'll be one you think about the rest of your life. What if? Sure, we all think about that."
If there was danger in allowing the nine-year veteran to throw 120, then 130 and more pitches, manager Felipe Alou was concerned, yet listened to Schmidt when the latter kept up his mantra, "I feel good."
"Of course the concerns were there after 120 pitches," said Alou. "It's getting up there. Everybody knows we don't want to run the guy up in the pitch count, but he never had a bad inning.
"He kept saying he felt good and he kept getting people out. And he never changed. He was throwing a great changeup very hard and a good breaking ball. Anytime you have a guy like that with all his pitches, you're in trouble."
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Schmidt said, called a great game and Schmidt rarely shook him off. The hurler wanted that known especially after the bad press Pierzynski had gotten recently with several pitchers bad-mouthing him.
"That was great the way he pitched and the way he went about his business," said Pierzynski. "It was fun to be a part of and it was awesome and something we needed. The old saying is sometimes you have to throw a shutout and he did it."
How Bonds was pitched Giants at Cubs, May 18
Hit into play:
2 (flyout, groundout)
Almost lost in the Schmidt gem was Pedro Feliz's timely hitting, something the Giants have been missing. With Barry Bonds aboard on a walk from losing hurler Matt Clement (5-3), Feliz ripped a ball up the middle, scoring Bonds.
Feliz also doubled in the third inning and played errorless ball at shortstop, taking the place of light-hitting Neifi Perez and starting at the spot for the first time in his career.
"It was good for our team and we were looking for something like that," said Feliz, now hitting .304. "I feel good. I'm happy about the team and me, too."
After the game, Bonds, returning to duty after missing three games with back spasms, said, "We needed that."
Schmidt has done well against the Cubs, and few can forget his three-hitter last April 30 when he competed following the funeral of his mother, Vicki. He fanned 12 batters for a 5-0 victory.
Dusty Baker, former Giants skipper and now Chicago's field boss, was impressed with Tuesday night's outing.
"It was Schmitty's night and he was throwing as good as I've seen him," said Baker. "That day was his first day back after his mother's funeral and a totally different day than today. When he's on, he's as tough as anybody in this league, in either league."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.