Any lingering concerns the club had about its ace’s health, though, were dismissed in his last outing.
Lincecum looks to lead the Giants to their fifth win in six games in the opener of a three-game series against the NL West rival San Diego Padres on Friday night at AT&T Park.
It’s been a largely frustrating season for the rebuilding Giants (55-72), who have the second-lowest scoring offense in the majors and the third-worst record in the NL.
Lincecum (13-3, 2.60 ERA), however, has provided reason for optimism. The 24-year-old right-hander leads the league in both ERA and strikeouts (192), and ranks second behind Arizona’s Brandon Webb in winning percentage.
Those numbers are part of the reason San Francisco was so concerned when Lincecum was drilled by a line drive on Aug. 12 against Houston. He had held the Astros to one hit while striking out seven in 4 1-3 innings before limping off the field.
Lincecum shook off the bone bruise and returned Sunday, when he limited Atlanta to one run and three hits and struck out 10 in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-1 victory.
“I was throwing strikes,” he told the Giants’ official Web site. “That’s the key.”
Although he doesn’t have a decision against the Padres (48-79), Lincecum has held them to two runs over 20 innings spanning three starts - all Giants wins.
The Giants hope their ace can help them build on a 4-3 win over Florida on Thursday. Emmanuel Burriss scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning to give San Francisco its fourth victory in five games.
The Giants have also won four of five at AT&T Park, where their last five victories have each been decided by one run. They haven’t won a home game by more than two runs since a 6-3 victory over Washington on July 22.
“We’re finding ways to win,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose pitching staff has posted a 2.60 ERA over its last five contests. “More than anything, we’re throwing the ball better. We’re pitching better here at home and that’s a big part of it.”
That’s bad news for San Diego, which managed only five hits in a 4-1 loss to Arizona on Thursday night. The last-place Padres have been held to two or fewer runs five times in their last nine games, and are 2-7 in that stretch.
They’ll try to provide more support for Friday’s starter Cha Seung Baek (4-8, 4.99), who’s in danger of losing three straight starts for the first time since a four-start skid during his rookie season with Seattle in 2004. The right-hander limited Philadelphia to one earned run and four hits in six innings Sunday, but suffered a 2-1 defeat.
In his only previous appearance against San Francisco, Baek struck out the side in one inning of relief to earn the decision in San Diego’s 7-3, 13-inning victory on May 30. That contest was one of the Padres’ four wins in 11 meetings with the Giants in 2008.