The 23-year-old right-hander looks to win his fourth straight decision to start the season Thursday when the Giants (9-13) look to complete a sweep of a two-game road series against Chris Young and the San Diego Padres.
While Zito is winless as he struggles in the second season of his seven-year, $126 million contract, Lincecum (3-0, 1.57 ERA) has emerged as San Francisco’s most consistent starter in his second season in the big leagues. He features four outstanding pitches, most notably his fastball, but the development of his slider and changeup this season have made him more effective.
His last two victories both came against St. Louis, including a 3-0 win on Saturday. Lincecum yielded six hits over seven innings with five strikeouts, just six days after he struck out 11 Cardinals over six innings in a 7-4 victory.
“His fastball is so powerful he doesn’t have to be perfect with the rest of his pitches,” Cardinals second baseman Adam Kennedy said about Lincecum.
The only start Lincecum failed to win was San Francisco’s 3-2, 11-inning victory over San Diego (9-13) on April 8. He gave up one run and seven hits over six innings, and is 0-1 with a 1.86 ERA in three career starts against the Padres.
Runs could be at a premium Thursday with Young (1-1, 4.57) on the mound for the Padres. Although he has a high ERA, six of the 11 earned runs he gave up came in one start, an 11-1 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 12.
Young, who is limiting right-handed hitters to a .188 average, bounced back with a solid outing last Saturday in a 10-3 loss at Arizona. He allowed two runs and three hits and did not factor in the decision.
The 6-foot-10 right-hander is making his first start of the season against the Giants, and seventh of his career. He is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA against them.
This series features the two lowest-scoring teams in the NL, and both offenses had their share of problems in the opener Wednesday. The Giants won 3-2 in 13 innings as Fred Lewis and Aaron Rowand delivered RBI singles in the 13th.
San Francisco has scored an NL-low 70 runs—four fewer than the Padres.
The Padres were poised for a 1-0 victory—which would have been the 350th of starter Greg Maddux’s career—when they handed the ball to Trevor Hoffman to start the ninth inning. But the struggling closer, the all-time saves leader with 528, gave up a one-out solo homer to Bengie Molina.
Hoffman suffered his second blown save in six chances, and his 8.22 ERA is the third-worst mark for San Diego.
“I’m pretty comfortable with what I threw,” Hoffman insisted. “Obviously it wasn’t good enough.”
Another long night ended in frustration for the Padres, who were playing their first home game since a 2-1 loss in 22 innings to Colorado last Thursday. They have scored a total of five runs in their last 44 innings at home.