Having posted an 0-2 record with a National League-worst 7.59 ERA in his previous four starts this month, Lincecum showed the Twins how he won two Cy Young Awards. Demonstrating his ability to retire any hitter in any fashion, Lincecum erased the first five batters on ground balls. Then he assumed a more familiar guise. He struck out 12 of the final 19 batters he confronted, including nine of the last 12.
Striking out the side in the fourth and seventh innings helped Lincecum (6-6) record his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season and the 30th of his career. Though Lincecum maintained command of all of his deliveries, catcher Chris Stewart noted that the right-hander's slider was particularly devastating.
But the real source of Lincecum's performance was mental, not mechanical or physical. Lincecum acknowledged that he recaptured the confidence that eluded him in recent weeks.
"Not worrying about what's going to happen if I throw a pitch, I think that's the biggest thing," he said. "I always wondered if throw a pitch, what's going to happen if I leave it over the middle -- I wasn't thinking anything like that. I always talk about having conviction in your pitches and believing in them in that given moment. I think that's kind of what led up to today's success."
Lincecum acknowledged that significant others helped him refresh his attitude -- namely, his father and mentor, Chris, and former catcher Bengie Molina, with whom he exchanged text messages.
"They were saying the same thing -- you have to believe in yourself," Lincecum said. "I know that sounds like a cliche, but you have to know that you're the best and you're out there for a reason. You take that to heart, you start to believe in yourself a little bit more and you start to carry that out on the field."
Whether Lincecum derived an advantage from facing Minnesota for the first time is debatable. Stewart thought it helped.
"It was one of those things where [the Twins] were on their heels and having to make an adjustment," he said.
But Lincecum simplified matters for himself by refusing to consider this factor.
"Today I just completely erased that from my mind," he said. "I went after them as if they were San Diego or any other team we face regularly."
The Twins, who moved only two runners into scoring position against Lincecum, played the entire series without regulars Justin Morneau, Denard Span and Jason Kubel. The reverence that several Twins expressed for Lincecum suggested that those absences were irrelevant.
"I think you see his ball disappear," said manager Ron Gardenhire, coining a sensible oxymoron. "He has that great splitter or changeup or whatever it is that just dives off the table."
"I need pitching lessons [from him] or something," said left-hander Brian Duensing (4-7), who nearly matched Lincecum by yielding one run in 6 2/3 innings.
"He mixed up his pitches well and it comes from a little different angle," said shortstop Matt Tolbert, who struck out in both of his at-bats against Lincecum. "The ball kind of jumps on you with a tight spin. So it's tough to pick up."
Ranked last in the Majors in scoring entering the game, the Giants mustered just enough offense to earn the decision for Lincecum. With one out in the second inning, Pablo Sandoval singled, reached third base on Pat Burrell's double and scored on Miguel Tejada's groundout. The Giants left the bases loaded in the fifth and seventh innings before Aubrey Huff doubled and scored on Cody Ross' single to pad the lead in the eighth against reliever Glen Perkins.
That run proved vital when Brian Wilson walked Alexi Casilla and surrendered Michael Cuddyer's RBI double to open the ninth. That ended Wilson's 15 1/3-inning scoreless streak that spanned 15 games. Wilson recovered to secure his 21st save, with Sandoval creatively recording the final out after fielding Luke Hughes' ground ball. Instead of simply throwing to first base, Sandoval opted to run down Cuddyer -- a risky choice, though he made the tag.
"You take the last out any way you can get it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.