SAN FRANCISCO -- No one knows at this point if we're watching the end of the Tim Lincecum Era as a Giant. It's entirely possible, though, that he might have just a few more starts at AT&T Park.
After all, as an impending free agent, it's going to be his decision about where he wants to continue his baseball career. But if Lincecum can be lobbied into sticking around, the right-hander admitted after Saturday night's 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that Giants fans will have had a powerful voice.
Even though Lincecum (7-13) beat a winning team for the first time since May 21 and didn't turn in a performance he was all that happy with -- 51/3 innings, three hits, three runs, four walks and eight strikeouts -- he was showered with a rousing ovation as he came off the mound in the sixth inning with the game still very much in doubt.
For all the rough things that have happened to him the past three seasons, Lincecum Love is in full flower at Third and King.
"It's well deserved, he's earned that since he's been up here," said manager Bruce Bochy. "Cy Youngs, helping us win two World Series. It says a lot about our fans, how they stay behind these guys."
Lincecum, to be sure, notices that as well. He hasn't really started thinking about the offseason just yet and what his first venture into free agency might portend. But he said that the adulation and support he's received from Giants fans will be a factor in mapping out his plans.
"This organization and what it represents, it has a lot of familiarity with me, as well as the fan base," he said. "That's been without saying for the past seven years, and that will definitely play into my decision when that time comes."
For now, he still hears the intensity of the ovations and appreciates them as much as ever.
"Of course I do," Lincecum said. "It's hard not to, especially here. They have a knack for making their players feel loved here, and I've known that for years. It's not any different now, it's just hard to be accepting of it when you don't feel you deserve it."
For one night, anyway, the Giants deserved cheers all around. They put together one of those feel-good victories that eased a little bit of the pain from their shipwreck 2013 season.
The Giants scored four first-inning runs against one of the National League's hottest pitchers, left-hander Francisco Liriano, and put a solid whipping on the first-place Pirates behind Lincecum. For good measure, they gained a game on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the standings for the first time since July 31.
That might not mean much when you're still 19 games out, but Buster Posey, who drove in the first run in the fruitful first and had three hits on the night, begged to differ.
"It feels good," said Posey. "Hopefully, we can build on this and continue it (Sunday) and going forward."
No doubt about it, these kinds of outcomes have become exceedingly rare, particularly with their former ace on the mound. The Giants had gone 3-14 in Lincecum's previous 17 starts but had scored two or fewer runs in 11 of those games.
Even with the run support, his victory was in jeopardy in the sixth. After getting the first out, he walked Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez doubled into the right-field corner. Bochy made the call to left-hander Jose Mijares, who surrendered a first-pitch RBI single to pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez. Right-hander Jean Machi then allowed a first-pitch single to Tony Sanchez that scored Alvarez and made it 5-3.
Machi settled down to get the final two outs of the inning.
Javier Lopez averted a Pirates threat by striking out Alvarez with two on, then Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo made quick work of the Pirates in the eighth and ninth. Romo collected his 31st save.