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A's struggle vs. Lincecum again in loss to Giants

The Oakland Athletics might face Tim Lincecum once, maybe even twice a season in the annual interleague series against the Giants.

As far as they're concerned, that's more than enough.

Lincecum pitched a three-hitter in one of the most spectacular outings of his already brilliant career, leading San Francisco Giants past the A's 3-0 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory. Of Lincecum's eight career complete games, three have come against Oakland.

"He looked at the top of his game," A's manager Bob Geren said.

The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner allowed Ryan Sweeney's two-out single in the first before retiring 21 straight, leading the Giants past the A's for the second day in a row. Lincecum (4-4) struck out six and walked none to hand Oakland its fourth straight loss.

Making matters worse for Oakland was the creeping shadows around home plate, forcing hitters to find the ball from Lincecum's hand atop the mound, forcing hitters to find the ball from his hand atop the mound, through the sunlight and into darkness, at times seemingly making pitches vanish.

"I have sympathy for them," Lincecum said of Oakland's hitters in the conditions.

Not that he showed any compassion.

Buster Posey had two hits and drove in the only run against starter Brett Anderson (2-4), who left after giving up five hits in five innings to the defending World Series champions. Cody Ross added an RBI single and Miguel Tejada had a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

The man they call The Freak lived up to his nickname in every facet.

After allowing seven runs and walking six in a 7-4 loss at Colorado in his last start, Lincecum labored through a 24-pitch first inning before finding his groove. Sweeney sent a grounder on the ninth pitch just out of reach of diving second baseman Freddy Sanchez, the only Oakland baserunner until Landon Powell's two-out single in the eighth.

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball," Powell said. "It's not going to be an easy at-bat whenever you go up to face him. You just try to scratch it together against him."

Even for Lincecum this was simply dazzling.

Lincecum sparkled with his best performance of the season, shattering bats, baffling hitters and popping Posey's glove with a wicked breaking ball and a fastball that touched 96 mph with his adrenaline pumping in the ninth. His combination of sliders, curves, changeups and fastballs kept hitters off balance, and his composure never wavered.

After David DeJesus led off the ninth with a single, Giants closer Brian Wilson sprinted out to the bullpen and started warming up — in clear vision of Lincecum. He kept his poise to throw a season-high 133 pitches, striking out Daric Barton swinging and getting Sweeney looking to end the game.

"It's hard to compare outings. He's so good," Posey said. "He was himself."

All the cushion Lincecum would need came early.

Andres Torres got things started for the Giants with a leadoff walk in the first. Sanchez followed with a double, and Posey's groundout to second was hit slow enough to score Torres and give San Francisco a 1-0 lead.

A night after a trio of solid defensive plays, the Giants were sharp again in the field. Torres made a diving catch in center in the fourth to rob Barton of extra bases, moving to his left on a ball slicing away from him in a strong gust.

Even the smallest of plays would prove big with runs so scarce.

Aubrey Huff tried to score from first on Mike Fontenot's double in the sixth, getting thrown out at the plate on second baseman Mark Ellis' relay throw from short right field.

They finally gave Lincecum some extra protection in the eighth, when Ross had an RBI single off reliever Brad Ziegler. Two batters later, Tejada added a sacrifice fly to center field off Jerry Blevins to score Ross.

Lincecum has never thrown a no-hitter, but twice took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning this season. And this one might be considered his masterpiece.

"I think it just goes back to having good rhythm throughout the game," Lincecum said. "Not expending yourself too much to allow yourself, if you get into a jam, to take it to another level."

Notes: Oakland 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff has a right groin strain and is day to day. ... Oakland's two-time All-Star closer Andrew Bailey (strained right forearm) had a light throwing session before the game and will make his second rehab appearance in Triple-A Sacramento either Monday or Tuesday, Geren said. Bailey is scheduled to throw one inning. ... Oakland has lost eight straight at AT&T Park.