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TOR@SF: Lincecum fans six over seven strong frames

SAN FRANCISCO -- For somebody who's allegedly destined to be a relief pitcher, Tim Lincecum certainly resembled a fairly decent starter.

Of course, if Lincecum can duplicate Tuesday night's performance against the Toronto Blue Jays frequently enough, his only bullpen visits will consist of between-starts throwing sessions and pregame warmups.

Lincecum yielded a first-inning homer before retiring 18 of the next 20 hitters he confronted in seven assertive innings as the Giants outlasted the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1.

Andres Torres clobbered a two-run homer off Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson in the second inning to give Lincecum a slender yet enduring lead. Lincecum allowed three hits while permitting just one runner to reach scoring position after the first inning.

This wasn't the Lincecum who recorded a 6.37 ERA in six May starts. Or the one who lost his three previous outings while compiling an 8.27 ERA. Or the guy who came off last Wednesday's 4 1/3-inning stint against the A's, his shortest start of the season.

This was Lincecum as he could be -- effective with his fastball, even at its diminished velocity, and living in the strike zone instead of avoiding it. Entering the game tied for third in the National League with 31 walks, Lincecum issued only one free pass while throwing 61 strikes in 100 pitches.

"Working my fastball to both sides of the plate, that was the biggest thing today," Lincecum said. "It opened up my secondary pitches. I expanded the zone and tried to stay aggressive."

Lincecum sounded reserved, almost grim, during his postgame address. Though he appreciated winning, he added, "I still have a lot of work to do. I've said it before, I'm not jumping up and down right now. I'm just happy with what we did today. Tomorrow's another day of work."

And it'll be devoted toward preparing for his next start, not a transition to the bullpen. Asked if he derived extra motivation from the myriad reports about his possible transition to relieving, the two-time Cy Young Award winner replied, "Like I've said, my main focus today and this year is to be a good starter."

Lincecum filled that role admirably. Edwin Encarnacion opened the scoring by crushing a two-out, first-inning homer that reached the top of the platform beneath the center-field batters' eye. It was Encarnacion's 17th homer of the season, tying him with Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for second in the American League.

Lincecum recovered to strike out the next batter, Adam Lind, beginning a stretch of 14 consecutive Blue Jays the right-hander retired.

That streak ended when Johnson drew a one-out walk in the sixth inning. Melky Cabrera, the former Giant who was booed all night by the partisan AT&T Park crowd, delivered his second single of the evening. But Jose Bautista lined out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who threw to second base to start a controversial double play. Whether Johnson dove back into second quickly enough or whether second baseman Marco Scutaro held Sandoval's throw long enough were subject to interpretation.

"I just didn't think [Scutaro] ever had possession of it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It happened so fast and everything was kind of out of control, but [after the] third out, they're not going to get together and check that. That's the way it goes."

Johnson matched Lincecum's seven innings in his first game since being sidelined for six weeks with right triceps inflammation. Johnson's only lapse was the 1-1 changeup that Torres knocked over the center-field barrier, one out after Hunter Pence led off the second inning by reaching safely on Encarnacion's throwing error.

Torres is 6-for-11 with two homers in his career off Johnson.

"You respect your opponent," said Torres, downplaying his success against the big right-hander.

Likewise, Johnson saluted Torres.

"If he hits it out there, you have to tip your cap to him," the hurler said. "That's a pretty deep part of the ballpark."

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