"It's hard to say right now," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
But center fielder Aaron Rowand had no trouble summarizing the Giants' reaction once they learned that Lincecum, a National League All-Star and the Major League leader in strikeouts with 182, wasn't seriously injured.
"We're all very relieved that it's just a bone bruise," Rowand said. "We all care about him, not only as a teammate but as a person, too. He got lucky. I've seen people get hit in the chest and miss the rest of the year with blood clots and all kinds of stuff. I told him that there were a lot of worse places he could have gotten hit -- pitching hand, pitching elbow, shoulder, face, you name it."
"Concern was there, and you're hoping for the best," Bochy said. "There's not a lot of meat on those bones."
Leading off Houston's fifth, Ausmus smashed a 3-1 pitch up the middle. The ball caromed off Lincecum's knee so hard that first baseman John Bowker easily recorded the putout. Meanwhile, Lincecum crumpled to the ground and rolled head over heels in pain.
Bochy said that the impact of Ausmus' drive briefly "paralyzed" Lincecum. The right-hander tried to stand but limped off the field to the clubhouse, ushered by head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner. Lincecum was not available for comment after the game.
It had been a typical performance for Lincecum until Ausmus batted. Lincecum allowed one hit and struck out seven. Houston scored a pair of tainted runs off Lincecum in the third inning. A Darin Erstad double that left fielder Fred Lewis struggled to corral and a fielding error by second baseman Emmanuel Burriss accounted for the scoring.
Lincecum also scored from first base on Randy Winn's two-out double in the fourth inning. Despite that all-out sprint, Lincecum had enough energy to strike out the side in the bottom of the fourth.
The Astros' admiration for Lincecum was as obvious as their regard for his health.
"You don't want the kid to be injured, because that's an awfully talented young man," manager Cecil Cooper said.
"I hope he's all right," said right-hander Roy Oswalt. "He's a great competitor, and I like the way he goes about his business."