Lincecum expects to finish 2009 strong

Lincecum expects to finish 2009 strong

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum doesn't feel the tug of finality as he approaches his last start of the season Thursday, which also happens to be the Giants' 2009 home finale. But he does maintain the urge to excel.

"Obviously, it's coming down [to the end], but I'm going to treat it like another game and see how things go," said Lincecum, who'll oppose Arizona D-backs ace Dan Haren in what promises to be a superb pitching matchup.

Lincecum is 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA against Arizona. The right-hander has walked nine and struck out 75 in 60 1/3 innings spanning his eight career encounters with the D-backs.

Haren's lifetime numbers against San Francisco don't glitter as much, but are still above average (6-5, 2.86 in 15 appearances). One of his two career shutouts came against the Giants last Sept. 16.

Though Lincecum (14-7) will fall short of the 18-victory total he reached last year while winning the National League's Cy Young Award, he still can set new statistical standards for himself. His ERA stands at 2.47, a slight improvement over the 2.62 ERA he recorded in 2008.

With an NL-high 254 strikeouts, Lincecum has a chance to pass Major League leader Justin Verlander of Detroit, who has 264. Also within Lincecum's reach are the 265 strikeouts he amassed last season, when he led the Majors and set a San Francisco-era record, and Christy Mathewson's franchise mark of 267 established in 1903. Footnote: Lincecum has amassed 10 or more strikeouts in eight of his 31 starts this year.

"It's definitely about finishing strong, or stronger than your start before," said Lincecum, who allowed two runs in seven innings in a 3-0 loss to the Cubs last Friday. "Anything that you can take a positive from, that's kind of what I'm looking for."

Lincecum's scheduled turn influenced manager Bruce Bochy's catching plans. Though Bengie Molina went 4-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs on Tuesday, he and Bochy agreed that he'd play only one of the series' final two games, which will be Thursday.

"I'd like for him to catch Timmy's last game here," Bochy said.

Eli Whiteside started behind the plate Wednesday.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.