SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Any disappointment San Francisco Giants fans may have had over not seeing Tim Lincecum pitch in the All-Star game was quickly erased by how sharp he looked in the first game back from the break.
Lincecum pitched a six-hitter for his fourth career shutout and Pablo Sandoval hit an RBI double to help the San Francisco Giants open the second half of the season with a 2-0 victory over the New York Mets on Thursday night.
``I think it's evident the rest probably did him well,' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``The first inning you could tell he was fresh. It was nice that he didn't pitch in the All-Star game and we could use him tonight.'
NL manager Charlie Manuel held Lincecum (10-4) in reserve Tuesday night in case the All-Star game went extra innings. When he wasn't needed in that game, the Giants decided to pitch him in the first game back from the break.
Coming off seven days of rest, Lincecum looked as good as he has all year against the Mets. The two-time NL Cy Young winner struck out five and walked one in the 110-pitch outing. He now has had two straight strong starts after a rare pair of rough outings against Boston and Colorado.
``It was good for both the team and myself,' Lincecum said. ``It was a confidence builder. Coming out of the first half, ending it the way I did, I wanted to keep that going.'
San Francisco has won eight of 10 games following a seven-game losing streak.
Lincecum has now thrown two straight strong outings after a rare pair of rough starts. He has allowed one run in the past 16 innings after giving up eight in nine innings over his previous two starts.
The Mets' only real threat against Lincecum came in the fifth inning when Josh Thole hit a line drive through the box that glanced off Lincecum's back for a single. That put runners on first and second with no outs. But Lincecum retired the next three hitters, getting Angel Pagan on a flyout to right field with runners on second and third to escape the jam.
``I don't know if my stuff was the best, but I was definitely throwing stuff where I wanted to,' Lincecum said. ``I was throwing pitches in when I needed to, backdoor breaking balls when I needed to and making good pitches when I had to.'
The fans cheered loudly when he was sent to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning and he responded by slapping a single to left field. He then finished the Mets off on the mound with a perfect ninth for his first shutout since throwing a two-hitter against St. Louis on June 29, 2009.
``It's a little tough to come back and face a guy who is that sharp,' Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.
The only real hard hit the Mets delivered came when Alex Cora hit a foul ball into the Giants' dugout that hit Bochy and left him with a welt on his right jaw.
``I'm OK. I took one for the team,' Bochy said. ``Guys were scattering in the dugout and we lost sight of it. But it's worth it.'
The Mets were hoping for a big offensive boost this game with the return of five-time All-Star Carlos Beltran to the lineup. Beltran had been out since undergoing offseason surgery on his right knee. He batted cleanup and played center field, but was caught stealing after his only hit in the game.
``I was trying to pick up the catcher's sign,' Beltran said. ``I saw two fingers and I just felt that I was going to be able to make it. I guess when you drink too many coffees and too much sugar before the game, it makes you do crazy things.'
The Mets managed just five other hits off Lincecum in the opener of an 11-game road trip. Lincecum needed to be sharp in this game as the Giants struggled to generate much offense against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-3).
Dickey allowed just five hits in seven innings and was only really threatened in the second.
Buster Posey led off that inning with a single and advanced to third on a groundout and wild pitch. Sandoval then lined a ball off the brick archways in right field so hard that it rolled almost to center field before Pagan chased it down.
``He is a good hitter and he hit a pitch,' Dickey said. ``We tried to go in on him (with a fastball) and he was ready for it. It's easy to go back and say it was a mistake, but if he pops it up it's not a mistake.'
The Giants managed nothing else against Dickey, but won for just the third time in 29 games this season when they scored two or fewer runs. They added a run in the eighth on an RBI fielder's choice by Posey.
NOTES: Mets All-Star SS Jose Reyes missed the game with a sore right side. ... The Giants improved to 3-0 this season against knuckleballers, having beaten Charlie Haeger of the Los Angeles Dodgers in April and Boston's Tim Wakefield last month.
The Associated Press News Service
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