After getting their Freak on, Giants eye sweep of Padres

Having already begun to rediscover their offense during this four-game series with the San Diego Padres, the San Francisco Giants may also have "The Freak" back as well.

The Giants look to follow up Tim Lincecum's first career no-hitter with a sweep of the Padres on Sunday afternoon.

A former two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, Lincecum went into Saturday's outing 4-9 with a 4.61 earned run average on the season. However, he flashed vintage form in holding the Padres without a hit, get plenty of offensive and defensive support in a 9-0 victory.

Lincecum struck out 13 in his historic outing, walking four and hitting one batter. He surpassed his previous career high of pitches in a game by 10 with 148 and logged the 15th no-hitter in franchise history.

"It's pretty surreal for me," said Lincecum, who threw the second no-hitter in the majors this season. Cincinnati's Homer Bailey had the first earlier this month on July 2.

Added manager Bruce Bochy, "It's good to see something nice happen for Timmy with his ups and downs the last couple of years."

As is usually the case, there were some close calls for Lincecum, but his defense was up to the task. Pablo Sandoval made a nice backhand stop of a sharp grounder at third to end the seventh and right fielder Hunter Pence made perhaps the catch of the game when he raced in and made a sliding grab of a sinking line drive off the bat of Alexi Amarista to finish off the eighth.

"That was really special," Lincecum said of the catch. "To be honest with you, I thought that was a hit off the bat. Hunter comes flying out of nowhere and makes a Superman catch."

A rejuvenated San Francisco offense provided plenty of support, with Pence hitting a homer and driving in five runs. Brandon Belt smacked a two-run shot and had three RBI, while Buster Posey and Sandoval each had three hits.

The Giants were averaging 2.4 runs per contest in losing 14 of 16 prior to arriving in San Diego, but have scored 23 times in winning the first three tilts of this four-game set.

They have won eight of 12 versus the Padres this season, including five in a row. That is the longest winning streak for San Francisco in this series since winning six straight in 2006.

That year also marked the last time the Giants swept a four-game set in San Diego, doing so from Aug. 14-17.

Edison Volquez was torched for eight of the Giants' runs on Saturday. He gave up nine hits over five innings as the Padres continued to slide in a downward trend. They've now lost 18 of their last 21 games.

"The team is pissed off, we're not swinging the bats," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We're not pitching. We're not playing the way that we can play."

San Diego, still the only franchise in the majors without a no-hitter in its history, was last no hit on July 10, 2009 by then-Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez.

Tasked with following Lincecum's gem will be Barry Zito, who is 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in seven outings since his last win on May 30.

The Giants are 1-6 over Zito's winless stretch and he struggled on Tuesday versus the New York Mets. The left-hander allowed five runs on seven hits and four walks in six innings of work, but did not factor into a 10-6 loss.

Still, Zito is just 4-6 with a 4.62 ERA in 18 starts this season, including 0-5 with a 9.38 ERA in seven road outings.

He is 1-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts versus the Padres in 2013, but in his lone start of the year in San Diego, the 35-year-old was charged with six runs -- only one earned -- in 3 2/3 frames of a no-decision.

Eric Stults will try to conclude an excellent first half when he toes the rubber for the Padres.

The 33-year-old southpaw is 7-7 with a 3.50 ERA through 19 starts and snapped a four-start winless drought (0-2) with a complete-game victory over Colorado on Tuesday.

Stults was one out away from a shutout, but instead settled for his second complete game of the campaign and allowed a run, four hits and three walks while fanning five in the 122-pitch outing.

"He was pitching great and had a two-hit shutout going into the ninth," said Black. "All his stuff was working there and he just pitched a great game. The ball was coming out of his hand really good."

Stults is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in three meetings with the Giants this year and owns a lifetime ERA of 5.11 against the club.