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San Francisco Giants' Hector Sanchez is tagged at second by Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Luis Cruz on a double play in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles Wednesday, April 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

LOS ANGELES -- Tim Lincecum's rough 2012 starts often turned on one at-bat, one moment where he needed to be his old self and couldn't summon the right pitch. There were plenty of those moments Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, and at every turn, Lincecum pulled an escape act.

The result was a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on a night when Lincecum often looked headed for disaster.

In the first start of what he hopes will be a bounce-back season, Lincecum put 10 runners on base in five innings and threw just 46 of his 91 pitches for strikes. But he didn't give up an earned run, and, most importantly, he earned his first win of the season and helped the Giants take a series victory.

"It was more competing than pitching," Lincecum said, smiling. "That's what I can take from this."

The Dodgers nearly opened the floodgates several times. The first inning included a single, two walks, a passed ball and a Matt Kemp fly ball to the warning track, but the Dodgers managed a lone unearned run. A walk to light-hitting pitcher Josh Beckett helped load the bases in the second inning, but Lincecum struck out Skip Schumaker and got Kemp, who is hitless in his last 25 at-bats against the Giants, to line out to center.

"He battled," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was a little off at times but he competed so well tonight. He got in some jams and had to work hard, but he found a way to get it done."

Having limited the damage, Lincecum joined in as the Giants lineup thumped Beckett in the top of the third. Gregor Blanco's leadoff single and Brandon Crawford's double, the first extra-base hit of the season for the Giants, set the table. Blanco scored when Lincecum grounded out to shortstop and Crawford made it 2-1 when Schumaker booted Angel Pagan's grounder to second.

Two batters later, Pablo Sandoval did what he does better than anybody in baseball. Sandoval's recent elbow soreness bothered him the most when he swung left-handed, but hitting from that side against the right-handed Beckett, he jumped on a neck-high fastball and rocketed it into the right-field seats.

"I don't know what a pitcher is going to think when he puts one up and in and Pablo still hits it," said Hunter Pence, who also homered. "It's a lot of fun to watch."

The two-run shot gave Lincecum a three-run cushion. After throwing 40 pitches in the first two innings, Lincecum set the Dodgers down on nine pitches in the third. He put two runners on again in the fourth, this time escaping thanks to Marco Scutaro's sliding stop of a sharp two-out grounder.

The Dodgers tacked on a second unearned run after Buster Posey's error in the fifth, and Bochy jogged out to the mound to check on Lincecum.

Bochy tends to give his starters every opportunity to reach five innings and qualify for a victory, and given one last chance, Lincecum got A.J. Ellis to fly out to right to end the threat. It was ugly at times, but Lincecum still contributed to a strong stretch for the staff. In the three-game series, Giants starters went 19 innings without allowing an earned run.

"He gave us a chance to win the game," Bochy said. "Any time you get a win, that's a great night."

The Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth, but George Kontos, who gave up the game-winning homer to Clayton Kershaw on opening day, entered and got Kemp to ground into a rally-killing double play.

Javier Lopez and Chad Gaudin set the stage for Sergio Romo, who picked up his second save in two nights.

"Our guys were looking forward to this series -- I know I was, personally," Lincecum said. "We wanted to come in here and make a statement."

  • Bochy knew the questions were coming. Bochy had planned all along to have Posey behind the plate for Lincecum's season debut on Wednesday, but when first baseman Brandon Belt still was ill, Bochy switched gears.

    As he did for much of last season, Lincecum threw to Hector Sanchez, with Posey playing first base.

    "With Belt still being pretty washed out, it makes sense to get Hector a start and get him involved," Bochy said.

    Told that this would only fuel last season's conspiracy theories that Posey and Lincecum don't like to work together, Bochy smiled. "I'm telling the truth," he said.

    Belt's face told the same story Wednesday, the second straight day that he was out of the lineup because of a stomach virus that has sapped his strength. Belt didn't feel as nauseous as he had on Tuesday but said: "I've got nothing left in the tank."

    Belt is so worn down that the walk from his hotel room to the lobby left him short of breath, but he said he was hopeful that he would feel well enough to play when the Giants return to AT&T Park for their home opener. He'll be helped by the fact that the team is off Thursday.

    After taking the whole day off Tuesday, Belt took part in portions of the pregame workout Wednesday and took a few rounds of batting practice on the Dodger Stadium field.

  • Sanchez was limited to just 20 at-bats during the spring because of a shoulder injury, but he stayed back in Arizona during the Bay Bridge Series, and Bochy said the reports from minor league games were good.

  • Sandoval (sore elbow) had no issues throwing on Tuesday and no longer is considered someone who needs to be checked day to day.

    "Pablo had a nice game down there with good reactions," Bochy said. "I think he's past (the elbow injury), but we still have to watch his workload early."

    Friday's Game

    St. Louis (Jake Westbrook) at Giants (Barry Zito), 1:35 p.m. CSNBA