Lincecum leads Giants into finale at Atlanta

There haven't been many times over his Cy Young Award- winning career that Tim Lincecum has looked as good as he did against Atlanta in last year's postseason.

The opposite could be said when he faced the club in San Francisco during an up-and-down start to the season.

Lincecum gets a shot at revenge this evening as he looks to pitch the Giants to a split of their four-game series with the wild card-leading Braves at Turner Field.

The 27-year-old made his postseason debut in Game 1 of last year's National League Division Series versus the Braves and hurled a two-hit shutout, striking out 14 in a 1-0 win and setting the tone for San Francisco's march to a World Series title.

Atlanta seemed to have a better handle on "The Freak" in a rematch by the Bay on April 23, where the righty was touched for five runs on six hits and six walks over 6 1/3 innings of a 5-2 defeat. Three of those runs were driven in by Martin Prado, while Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth both drew a pair of walks of Lincecum to drop him to 6-3 with a 3.34 earned run average in the regular season against Atlanta.

The Braves get a much-more focused Lincecum tonight as the two-time NL Cy Young winner has won five of his past seven starts and has allowed two runs or less in each of those outings for a 1.16 ERA. He won his second straight start on Saturday in Florida, hurling seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball, striking out 10 in a 3-0 triumph.

"It looked like he was hitting all of his spots and he kept them off-balance with his off-speed stuff. I'm glad we could score him some runs early," Giants right fielder Nate Schierholtz said about Lincecum.

Lincecum is 11-9 with a 2.58 ERA in 25 starts this year, including an excellent 2.08 ERA in 13 road games.

San Francisco is in position to split this set after picking up a 7-5 win last night in a victory that wasn't without anxious moments. Matt Cain hurled eight innings and gave up just one unearned run to snap a three-game slide, but with closer Brian Wilson unavailable due to a sore pitching elbow, the Giants bullpen allowed the Braves to score four runs in the bottom of the ninth before finally closing out the victory.

Atlanta's first two victories in this series both came on walk-off hits.

"We've had a couple of heartbreakers at the end the past two nights here," Cain said. "Coming off a bad skid at home, it seemed like everything accumulated. It was really nice for everybody to play relaxed and really go out there and kind of have fun."

Orlando Cabrera and Eli Whiteside had RBI singles during a four-run fourth inning and Pablo Sandoval drove in a pair of runs for the Giants, who went 5- for-12 with runners in scoring position and their sixth victory in 19 games pulled them within 2 1/2 games of the Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West. Arizona lost last night in Philadelphia.

Prado, who had the game-winning single in Tuesday's game, smacked a two-run double in the ninth inning for the Braves, who lost for just the third time in 10 games but still saw their advantage over the Giants in the race for the wild card fall to five games.

In his first start since Aug. 2 because of a strained knee, Jair Jurrjens was tagged for five runs over six innings.

"I felt good, just leaving some pitches up," Jurrjens said. "The changeup wasn't doing anything today. I was a little rusty. No excuses, I have to make my adjustments and I did not."

Young left-hander Mike Minor faces the Giants for the first time in his career as he draws the start in tonight's finale. It will be his third since June 21 and ninth overall this season.

Minor picked up a win over the Cubs on Friday as he allowed three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out six in a 10-4 triumph. The 23-year-old is 2-2 with a 4.84 ERA.