After getting uncharacteristically shelled in each of his first three turns in the rotation, the San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum finally showed signs of coming around during his last outing.
A matchup against the usually punchless San Diego Padres could help him take another step in the right direction.
Lincecum looks to win a fourth consecutive start in this series and the Giants try to bounce back from a rare loss to the Padres as these NL West rivals continue a three-game set Saturday night at AT&T Park.
Lincecum (1-2, 8.20 ERA), who was tagged for 16 runs in just 13 2-3 innings over his first three starts, got back on track despite a rocky effort during a 6-1 road victory in the first leg of Monday's doubleheader against the New York Mets. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner allowed one run, four hits and struck out eight over five frames to earn his first win despite walking a season-high five.
"It's a big step forward," Lincecum told the team's official website. "I think I heard on the TV (Monday) the adages that people use. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon, so I can't always expect the big results right out the gate. Baby steps."
While Lincecum was pleased with Monday's result, he still has plenty of work to do. Opponents are batting .317 against him - significantly higher than the .225 he's held them to over the course of his career.
"Your head's spinning and you're going to 50 different answers trying to get one," Lincecum said. "... We get caught up in negatives so easily and forget about the positives."
If his recent efforts against San Diego are any indication, Lincecum could get back to his dominating ways Saturday. The right-hander is 9-4 - his highest win total against any team - with a 1.96 ERA lifetime against the Padres (7-14). He won four of five starts against them last season while striking out 37 in 33 innings.
Batting a lackluster .218 in April, San Diego improved to 4-2 over its last six games with Friday's 5-3 win over San Francisco (10-10). Cory Luebke threw six strong innings and catcher Nick Hundley matched a career high with four hits for the Padres, whose victory was just their fourth in 15 meetings with the Giants.
Since going hitless in 21 at-bats over his first seven games, Hundley is batting .395 over his last 10.
"We all know what Nick can do," Luebke said of Hundley, who's gone 18 for 45 (.400) against the Giants since the start of last season. "He had a slow start but he kept working and it is exciting to see him get going."
Luebke's outing was San Diego's eighth straight quality start, a streak it hopes Anthony Bass (1-2, 2.33) can continue. The right-hander gave up an unearned run, three hits and struck out seven while walking five over six innings of Sunday's 6-1 win over Philadelphia.
"I walked way too many tonight, but it was one of those nights where you just have to battle through it," he said.
San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval extended his franchise-record hitting streak to open a season to 20 games with a single Friday. His feat is the longest of its kind since Edgar Renteria's 23-game run in 2006 with Atlanta.
Angel Pagan extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his third homer in as many days. Buster Posey also went deep and is batting .447 with three long balls in his last 10 games.