SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Giants ace Tim Lincecum looked just as strong throwing his 121st pitch as he did in the first inning.
That might be the most encouraging sign yet for the two-time former NL Cy Young Award winner, who is back on track after getting knocked around in his first three starts.
Lincecum pitched eight crisp innings in his longest outing of the season and helped spark San Francisco's sputtering offense with a two-out infield single for the Giants' first baserunner in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
''Mentally I just felt a little more into the game from beginning to end,'' said Lincecum, who struck out five and walked four. ''I let some guys get away, even on some early counts. Outside of that everything felt fine. Hopefully it builds off itself.''
Lincecum threw 121 pitches and retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced after giving up an unearned run in the second inning. He allowed just three hits, all of them singles.
It was the type of performance the Giants have come to expect from Lincecum, who was off to the worst start of his career before picking up wins in his last two starts.
''He had great focus out there and got better as the game went on,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ''He really was concentrating the last few innings, just got locked in and was hitting his spots. He pitched a great game, which we needed because their kid threw a terrific game.''
San Diego starter Anthony Bass carried a perfect game into the sixth inning until Lincecum beat out a slow grounder to shortstop to end the no-hit bid.
The hit stunned Lincecum almost as much as it did the Padres.
''Really surprised, especially with my hitting,'' Lincecum said of his first hit this season. ''I wasn't really going up there with the mindset to break up the perfect game. It was just try to do something to get on base.''
Bass worked his way out of that jam but ran into trouble the next inning when he lost his shutout.
Melky Cabrera hit a leadoff double in the seventh, took third on Nate Schierholtz's two-out infield single then both runners scored on Belt's two-out double to left-center. Belt has been filling in part-time at first base for San Francisco since Aubrey Huff went on the disabled list with anxiety disorder.
''We didn't want the only hit tonight to be by a pitcher,'' Belt said. ''I got into a hitter's count and something I could handle. Fortunately all (Lincecum) needed was two tonight.''
Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth for his third save for San Francisco.
Pablo Sandoval went hitless in four at-bats for the Giants, ending his 20-game hitting streak that was the longest in the majors this year.
San Francisco evened the series with San Diego despite a stellar effort from Bass (1-3).
The Padres' spot starter retired the first 17 batters. He allowed six hits, struck out a career-high eight and didn't walk a batter but took the loss after coming up short in his bid to become the first pitcher in Padres history to throw a no-hitter.
''He pitched his tail off,'' San Diego manager Bud Black said. ''He pitched an outstanding game against a guy who was pitching well too. I really encouraged by what I saw tonight.''
San Diego scored its only run without the benefit of a hit.
Two walks by Lincecum in the third and the Giants' 24th error this season loaded the bases for Nick Hundley, who hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Will Venable.
NOTES: Giants 2B Freddy Sanchez has a strain in his right shoulder, an MRI revealed. Bochy said he was encouraged by the test results and said the team will have Sanchez rest a few days before resuming his rehab. ... The Padres placed OF Jeremy Hermida on the 15-day DL with a strained right adductor. Blake Tekotte was recalled from Triple-A Tucson to replace Hermida on the roster. ... San Francisco INF Ryan Theriot received his World Series championship ring from former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa in a private ceremony before the game. ... LHP Madison Bumgarner (3-1) tries to become the Giants first four-game winner this season in Sunday's series finale. LHP Clayton Richard (1-2), who has allowed three earned runs or less in his previous seven starts vs. the Giants, goes for the Padres.