"We want San Diego to come in," said Giants closer Brian Wilson, whose 47th save preserved the decision for Tim Lincecum. "We want to play good baseball and that's what we're going to get. ... That's the way the story's been written this year."
This weekend would have been rendered meaningless with a Giants sweep of Arizona and two more Padres losses to the Cubs. But San Diego's interruption of its three-game losing streak ended that possibility.
The Giants shaved their magic number for clinching the division title to three. Any combination of Giants victories and Padres defeats totaling three will bring the division crown to San Francisco.
"It's going to be a fun ride to see where we end up," said Lincecum, who struck out 11 in seven innings and never seriously lapsed after yielding Stephen Drew's homer to open the game.
With 18 victories in 26 games, including seven wins in their last nine outings, the fun almost has been non-stop for the Giants.
But Pat Burrell, whose fourth-inning homer generated all of the Giants' runs, issued a warning to his teammates: Let's begin sustaining some offense. The good news is that the Giants have 13 homers in their last six games. The bad news is that those round-trippers have accounted for 21 of their 35 runs in that span. Such a one-dimensional offense is bound to falter in the postseason, if the Giants advance that far, since pitching typically reigns supreme in October.
"We have to find a way to manufacture more runs," Burrell said. "It's tough to always rely on the big hit. Obviously we'll take them wherever we can get them, but these guys have been pitching so great we have to find a way to score some more runs for them. ... The deeper this thing goes, the harder it's going to be for that to happen, the three-run homer."
At least the Giants got one of them against the D-backs. After Aubrey Huff singled and Buster Posey walked to open the fourth, Burrell connected with a low, 0-1 fastball from Arizona starter Ian Kennedy (9-10) as if he knew what was coming.
"I've faced him enough to where I kind of have a feel for what he's trying to do," Burrell said. "He had walked Buster on four pitches, so I wanted to make sure he could establish the strike zone first. He got ahead of me and I just went to hitting."
Lincecum had flashbacks to last Friday at Colorado, where Burrell's two-run, seventh-inning homer backed him in a 2-1 triumph.
"Burrell saved my butt the last time, too," Lincecum said. "It kind of reminded me of the days when Bengie [Molina] used to save my butt with a big home run."
Lincecum's effort indicated that he's primed for what the Giants hope will be his next assignment: the Division Series opener against a yet-to-be-determined opponent next Wednesday or Thursday.
"I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but [I'll] prepare as such," Lincecum said.
Lincecum (16-10) overcame a chest cold which began nagging him Tuesday night and drained his energy slightly.
"I was trying to conserve what I had out there and not throw too many pitches," said Lincecum, who still flung 114.
Lincecum issued four walks, matching the number of free passes he issued over his previous five September starts. But he reached double figures in strikeouts for the seventh time this season to hike his season total to a league-high 231.
Lincecum essentially sealed his third consecutive NL strikeout title before he threw a pitch, since his closest rivals in that category, Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw, won't pitch again this season. The Phillies are skipping Halladay's final regular-season turn to rest him for the Division Series.
Lincecum concluded his performance in his usual crowd-pleasing fashion. After he walked Kelly Johnson with two outs in the seventh, manager Bruce Bochy ran to the mound, suggesting that a pitching change wasn't imminent. He simply wanted to check on his right-hander.
"He came out and asked me how I'm doing," Lincecum said. "I said I'm doing great. I wanted [the game]."
He demonstrated that with his final strikeout of the evening, slipping a changeup past Chris Young.