"That was a better outing. I think he's close," Bochy said. "I think he's getting better with all his stuff. ... Overall, he should feel better about his outing today."He didn't. "I feel kind of out of sync," Lincecum said. Another right-hander threw freely and breathtakingly, just as Lincecum had done until recently. That was Jimenez (10-1), who became the Major Leagues' first 10-game winner and lowered his big league-best ERA to 0.78 with his second career shutout. The 26-year-old Dominican, who has not yielded more than two runs in any of his 11 starts, has emerged as the leading candidate to capture the National League Cy Young Award that Lincecum has won the previous two years. Lincecum himself termed Jimenez's success "pretty unreal." Jimenez established himself immediately against the Giants, who rapped 31 hits in their previous two games. His first pitch of the afternoon was a 96-mph fastball to Andres Torres, who proceeded to strike out on an 80-mph curveball. "You see the radar gun; he's throwing hard the first part of the game," said Giants first baseman Buster Posey, who went 0-for-3. "Then later in the game, it's not as hard, but the ball's moving a little bit more." Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval went 3-for-4 but was duly impressed. Asked if he considered Jimenez the league's best pitcher, Sandoval said, "I think so, yes." That distinction formerly belonged to Lincecum, who showed flashes of his best form. He threw 11 pitches in a perfect first inning and ended a 1-2-3 third by striking out Seth Smith and Helton. But the walks, two of them intentional, elevated his pitch count to 121 and prevented him from lasting six innings for the third start in a row. "He still looked good today," Barmes said. "Yeah, he threw a lot of pitches and we got his pitch count up. But he's been known to do that in the past. He still had good movement and kept us off-balance. I don't think we hit him real hard. He's obviously not far from where he used to be, if there is a difference." If Lincecum was apprehensive about this outing, he didn't show it. Shortly before noon he displayed his usual exuberance, dancing in front of his locker to Billy Ocean's "When the Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)" and mouthing the lyrics. The music stopped for Lincecum when he walked Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe to open the second inning. Miguel Olivo struck out before Ian Stewart's fielder's-choice grounder left runners at the corners. Up came Barmes, who grounded a 1-2 delivery up the middle. Lincecum labored even when he threw a scoreless fourth inning, throwing 21 pitches and leaving the bases loaded. He then surrendered a fifth-inning run on Smith's seeing-eye single and Helton's double. Walking Carlos Gonzalez on a 3-2 pitch ended Lincecum's day with two outs in the sixth and Stewart on third base via an infield single. Left-hander Dan Runzler relieved Lincecum and flung a wild pickoff attempt past first base to send home Stewart. That ended the scoring. But the head-scratching over Lincecum is bound to continue. He sounded as if he were still searching for answers. "I'm not necessarily saying something's wrong," Lincecum said of his pitching. "But you have to fix it."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.