The Giants improved to 4-1 on their two-city trip, which ends Sunday, and increased their division lead to five games over the Dodgers, pending the Arizona-Los Angeles result later on Saturday.
"We know what's at stake and we know it's coming down to crunch time," Lincecum said. "... We know that it comes down to a pretty tight crunch with the race in the West every year. This last month is the biggest."
With at least six starts left, Lincecum (8-14) has an opportunity to transform the first half of this season into a vague memory. He's on his way toward accomplishing that, having compiled a 5-4 record with a 3.26 ERA since the All-Star break after finishing 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA before it.
"When I've had to dig deep, I've done it," Lincecum said. "I had a terrible August in 2010 and I got out of that. This first half was my terrible August and we're still in our position. I just have to keep pushing hard and working in the right direction."
Manager Bruce Bochy reiterated that he and his staff have tried to buoy Lincecum's attitude.
"We've told him that there's a lot of baseball left," Bochy said.
Lincecum's progress manifested itself against the Cubs in the form of four hits allowed, three walks and seven strikeouts. David DeJesus' two-run, third-inning homer was his only serious lapse. Lincecum neutralized Alfonso Soriano, firing called third strikes on 91-mph fastballs past the Cubs slugger with men on base in the first and third innings. Lincecum credited catcher Hector Sanchez.
"Sanchie called for fastballs in, and I actually hit my spot for once -- twice, I guess."
That helped Lincecum employ other pitches, including his curveball and slider, to generate key outs.
"I think he'll tell you that's not the guy we saw winning Cy Youngs and having the command and velocity of the fastball -- all of that is completely different than it was a few years ago," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He knows how to get through lineups with his offspeed stuff and his changeup and curveball. It's not the same Cy Young stuff that we all remember him from."
Lincecum received ample defensive backing, including a 3-6-3 double play that first baseman Buster Posey started in the second inning and Sanchez's apprehension of would-be basestealer DeJesus in the fifth inning.
But perhaps the most significant assistance Lincecum received was newcomer Xavier Nady's three-run, bases-loaded double that highlighted San Francisco's four-run first inning. That output alone exceeded the average of 3.87 runs Lincecum had received in his outings entering Saturday, which represented the NL's fifth-lowest run-support figure.
The Giants launched their first-inning uprising against Cubs starter Justin Germano (2-5) with two outs and nobody on base. Pablo Sandoval singled to prolong the inning before Posey singled and Hunter Pence walked to load the bases. Germano grazed Sanchez with a pitch, forcing home Sandoval. Three more runs scored as Nady, one of San Francisco's six September callups, sharply grounded a 1-0 pitch inside the third-base line and into the left-field corner. Posey, Pence and Sanchez scored.
The Giants added a run in the second inning when Angel Pagan tripled and scored on Marco Scutaro's sacrifice fly. It was Pagan's 10th triple of the season, leaving him two shy of the San Francisco-era franchise record shared by Willie Mays (1960) and Steve Finley (2006).