Until the Giants recorded their second triumph of the season when trailing after eight innings, they had to content themselves with Lincecum's resilient effort. Having combined dreadful lapses with stretches of competence in most of his previous outings, Lincecum veered from one extreme to the other within the first inning alone this time. He allowed three runs and had the bases loaded with nobody out before striking out the next three A's.
Lincecum proceeded to no-hit Oakland for the next five innings. His six-inning, three-hit performance earned him his third quality start in 15 outings this season.
Lincecum turned around his evening by converting his self-disgust into positive energy. With the bases loaded, nobody out and three runs in, he looked in one direction and saw pitching coach Dave Righetti advancing from the dugout for a chat on the mound. Lincecum looked in another direction and saw Shane Loux warming up in the bullpen.
"I wasn't going to let him wear it too long out there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, confirming that Lincecum probably was one batter away from being removed. Fanning Brandon Moss, Kurt Suzuki and Cliff Pennington in succession changed everything for the right-hander.
"I felt like I got mad in the right way," said Lincecum, who threw 43 pitches in the first inning and 44 in the next four. "... When things are going rough, the first emotion that comes up is probably upset at yourself, then ashamed and then [angry]. I just tried to channel that madness, I guess you could say, out on the field."
Lincecum retired 18 of 20 batters after he walked Brandon Inge to force in Oakland's third run.
"He started to get a feel for his changeup, keeping the ball down in the zone," Suzuki said. "He was tough after that. It just seemed like he kind of got comfortable, and once he settled in, he kept going."
"There aren't many pitchers who could have done what he did," Bochy said.
Something Lincecum did earlier this week may have made a difference. He finally had a productive baseball-related conversation with his father, Chris, who shaped his pitching mechanics and style. Hoping to maintain his individuality and independence, Lincecum previously had resisted seeking his dad's advice.
Though Lincecum said that he took no specific instructions from his father to the mound with him, their talk left him with an "innate kind of comfort."
"He's my dad," said Lincecum, who was 0-6 with a 6.44 ERA in his previous nine starts. "Regardless of what I want to talk about, at some point, he's going to make me talk about something I don't necessarily want to. You have to understand that he's on my side. When he's critiquing me, it's not to make me worse. It's obvious he wants to make me better. The hardest thing for him is knowing that he can't do it for me. He's not here talking in my ear like he used to.
"... When you get past that initial 10 minutes of bickering at each other, it turns into an actual good conversation."
The Giants' evening underwent a similar transformation when everybody least expected it. In came Ryan Cook, the A's new closer who sported a 0.57 ERA in 30 appearances, to protect their ninth-inning lead. Cook courted trouble by walking Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval on nine pitches. Up came Belt, who was hit by a pitch near his right wrist two innings earlier. Belt ignored the discomfort and extended his hitting streak to 10 games by slicing a 1-2 pitch into the left-field corner, barely out of Collin Cowgill's reach. Posey and Sandoval scored.
"Just to get a good pitch to hit," Belt said, describing his approach at the plate. "I knew he was a little bit erratic, so if I got something in the strike zone, I was going to try to pounce on it. Pretty much every ball he gave me was right there."
Justin Christian's single put Giants on the corners and chased Cook before Sanchez grounded Sean Doolittle's 1-2 delivery into left field. Gregor Blanco padded the Giants' lead with an RBI single, which proved essential as Santiago Casilla surrendered Josh Reddick's one-out homer in the bottom of the ninth. Casilla recovered to strike out Yoenis Cespedes and Jonny Gomes to seal his 20th save.