CINCINNATI -- Technically, Tim Lincecum got the win on Wednesday.

But as far as his teammates are concerned, he ought to get credit for a save.

Lincecum's 41/3 innings of sparkling relief helped preserve an 8-3 victory in Game 4 and also gave the Giants' top late-inning options -- Sergio Romo, Javy Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt -- a much-needed day off.

"Now, we have our No. 1 guy (Matt Cain) on the mound and we've got everybody rested," reliever George Kontos said. "We're looking pretty good."

Banished to the bullpen because of his crummy regular season, Lincecum has made the best of what could have been an awkward situation in the playoffs. Over two relief outings in this National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he has allowed one run in 61/3 innings

Lincecum has eight strikeouts -- and zero walks.

He pitched so well, in fact, that Bruce Bochy said he would consider giving the two-time Cy Young winner another crack at the rotation should the Giants advance.

"I think you have to (think about it)," the Giants manager said. "He stepped up and did a terrific job. ... When you're on a stage like this, you're hoping somebody steps up. And Timmy did that tonight."

Lincecum, a four-time All-Star, could have sulked about being relegated to the bullpen. Instead, Wednesday's winning pitcher said he has embraced the idea of being a middle reliever.

"Right now, I feel like times are different," Lincecum said. "We're playing to get to the NLCS and further. So I feel that, with that motivation, I don't think about the difference between starting and being in a bullpen situation.


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"It's just that I've got to get my outs and do my job."

Lincecum inherited a jam when he entered in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Reds had runners at first and second and two out as the Giants clung to a 3-2 lead.

Looking more like the Goose than The Freak, the right-hander promptly snuffed the rally by striking out Ryan Ludwick on a changeup.

Bochy had found an ideal matchup: Ludwick was 3 for 23 (.130) with 11 strikeouts in his career against Lincecum.

"We knew Timmy would play a critical role in this series like he did tonight," Bochy said. "I love a man like this who had the talent he has and who buys into what we're doing.

"He said, 'I just want to do anything I can to help the ballclub win.' "

Kontos was among the least surprised to see how Lincecum has handled the conversion to the bullpen. He was Lincecum's teammate in the 2005 Cape Cod League. To limit his innings after a long college season, Lincecum served as the team's closer.

"He was nasty," Kontos recalled. "He was throwing in the triple-digits (mph) and striking everybody out."

Another trait in Lincecum's favor: He can get loose in the blink of an eye, as he showed during his Game 2 outing in AT&T Park. Kontos said he once got loose in four pitches but "I think (Lincecum) beat me the other day. He's fortunate to have a rubber arm like that."

Lincecum said his arm remains so strong that he did not rule himself out for Game 5, even after throwing 55 pitches (42 strikes).

He was sitting next to outfielder Angel Pagan when someone asked him if he would be available on Thursday.

"If they need me, yeah," Lincecum said.

"Oh, yeah, baby!" Pagan said.

Contact Daniel Brown at dbrown@mercurynews.com.