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Lincecum enjoys night despite nerves

Lincecum enjoys night despite nerves

ST. LOUIS -- Utilizing the same practice that allowed Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to motivate each other in Atlanta for nearly a decade, Tim Lincecum celebrated Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter Friday night and then asked the Giants left-hander, "Why do you have to go show me up like that?"

"It's just one of those joking things," Lincecum said. "You see what people can do and it makes you want to strive to do better. Outside of the competition with the team, I think everybody just wants to see everybody do well."

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Unable to pitch because he was hit near his right elbow with a line drive Saturday, Matt Cain further displayed the unity of the Giants' starting rotation when he said that he'd be battling nerves while watching Lincecum serve as the National League's starting pitcher during Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Busch Stadium.

Cain's butterflies certainly intensified as Lincecum's first All-Star appearance began with a two-run American League first inning that was aided by multiple defensive miscues. The Giants ace rebounded by finishing his outing with a 13-pitch perfect second inning. Lincecum got off the hook with an NL rally before the Senior Circuit fell to its AL counterparts, 4-3.

"I'll be honest with you, I was feeling a lot of nerves out there," Lincecum said. "First All-Star Game for me. There was a lot to take in, but I was just trying to have fun and go out there and enjoy it."

After President Barack Obama delivered the ceremonial first pitch to Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Lincecum got ahead of the first two batters he faced with an 0-2 count. But the 25-year-old right-hander allowed Ichiro Suzuki to deliver a leadoff single and take second base when a 1-2 fastball rode in and struck Derek Jeter's left hand.

Joe Mauer followed with a dribbler in front of the plate that would have been a double play had Mets third baseman David Wright's throw not pulled Pujols off the bag. Pujols' inability to field a Mark Teixeira grounder allowed Jeter to score from second base with the game's first run.

"That's just the way it goes," Lincecum said. "You have to understand that -- all of the hits aren't always line drives, they aren't always home runs. Balls were just hit in the right spot and you have to roll with it and move on and try to make the next out."

Lincecum, who was charged with just one earned run during his 35-pitch, two-inning appearance, allowed the AL to score its second run when he didn't get to first base in time to field a Hanley Ramirez relay that would have likely resulted in an inning-ending double play.

Along with gaining his first All-Star appearance, Lincecum was among the Major Leaguers who enjoyed the opportunity to converse before the game with Obama.

"It was great, just for him to be a part of it," Lincecum said. "We got to meet him before the game. It was a definite honor for me. He signed a baseball for me and shook my hand and just went around saying hi to the various guys in the clubhouse and expressed his love for the White Sox."

With their first All-Star experiences behind them, Lincecum, Cain and the rest of the San Francisco pitchers will look to continue the success that allowed the Giants to enter the All-Star break leading the NL Wild Card race and seven games behind the division-leading Dodgers.

"We've done pretty well in the first half when you think about where everybody picked us to go," Lincecum said. "We've got a lot of season to go. But we're playing better ball than everybody predicted. We're playing the game the right way. We're getting guys in and our pitchers are doing their jobs. We can't let up and we just have to keep having fun."

Cain provided some encouraging news Tuesday when he revealed that he expects to make his first turn following the All-Star break. Over his last 11 starts before the break, the 24-year-old right-hander went 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA and limited opponents to a .224 batting average.

While those numbers were impressive, they were trumped by Lincecum's. In his final 11 starts before the break, the reigning Cy Young Award winner went 7-1 with a 1.84 ERA and limited opponents to a .201 batting average.

"I think one thing that has been a little better this year is that the players have had the freedom to be themselves," Lincecum said. "We're seeing that younger generation coming through with players that I got to play with in the Minors. With that you feel a little more comfortable in your own shoes."

Sharing in the excitement created by their first All-Star selections, Cain and Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley seemed to enjoy the opportunity to share some camaraderie with a division rival.

Billingsley playfully said that Cain had ignored doctors' orders by playing long toss Monday. As for Cain, he told one of the Bay Area reporters that he's been picking the Dodgers hurler's brain with the hope of taking a sound scouting report back to San Francisco.

"This is something that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and sometimes you never know if you will make it back," Cain said. "So you definitely appreciate it when you get here."

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

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