Lincecum leads candidates to start Game 4

Lincecum leads candidates to start Game 4

SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that "it's fair to say" the Giants are leaning toward starting right-hander Tim Lincecum in Thursday's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at St. Louis.

That's subject to one significant condition: If Lincecum were to appear in relief during Monday night's Game 2, he likely wouldn't be able to rebound physically in time to start Game 4.

Lincecum was the lone member of San Francisco's regular-season rotation dropped from the postseason starting contingent. That resulted from his 10-15 record and his 5.18 ERA, which was the highest among the 46 NL pitchers who accumulated enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

But Lincecum has excelled in the postseason, allowing one run and three hits in 8 1/3 innings spanning three appearances. He has walked one and struck out nine -- a marked improvement from his ratio during the regular season, when he walked 90 and struck out 190.

"If he starts, I'd be eager to see him, the way he's throwing the ball," Bochy said before Monday's Game 2.