SAN FRANCISCO -- A long-absent fan favorite made a triumphant return to AT&T Park on Saturday night -- a confident and dominant right-hander named Tim Lincecum.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched like his old self in a 2-0 Giants victory over the San Diego Padres, firing 62/3 shutout innings and striking out eight while allowing just four hits and two walks.

The Giants have been waiting for this Lincecum to return to the fold for a while now, at least as a starter. While he sparkled out of the bullpen during the team's 2012 World Series title run, Lincecum hadn't had a start this long since Aug. 10.

"I thought he had a great tempo from the start of the game and did a good job of just pounding the zone," said catcher Buster Posey, who caught Lincecum for the first time this season. "He executed throwing the fastball and didn't totally rely on his breaking pitches."

Even though the Giants had won every one of Lincecum's three prior starts, it wasn't much because of his pitching. He'd allowed 10 earned runs, including three home runs, and 12 walks in 16 innings for a 5.63 ERA. In short, he'd looked very much like he did much of last season when he was 10-15 with 5.18 ERA.

But Saturday night's Lincecum looked like a vintage version. He retired the first six hitters he faced, three of them via strikeout.


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"He used all of his pitches, and he was throwing quality strikes, too," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I thought he used the fastball very well. He just seemed very determined and had a good focus."

In his only real jam -- a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the third inning -- Lincecum coaxed a weak grounder to second base out of the Padres' best hitter, Chase Headley, and did it after falling behind 3-1 in the count.

It was at that point that Lincecum went into a more combative mindset.

"I said to myself, 'I'm not going to walk this guy, I've got to challenge this guy and be aggressive,' " Lincecum said. "That's what I was thinking all day. I'm not going to try to nitpick around these guys like I have in the past. Even if it's down the middle, I've got throw every pitch with a meaning, and that was the difference today."

Posey said he called for a fastball and that Lincecum put it right where he wanted it to jam Headley, a switch-hitting slugger batting left-handed.

The Giants needed a huge game from their former ace because they managed just three hits themselves against Padres pitching, but one of them was a two-run, fourth-inning homer by Pablo Sandoval that proved to be all the support Lincecum (2-0) and his relief cast would need.

Sandoval had a one-out, eight-pitch battle with San Diego starter Andrew Cashner (0-1) after Angel Pagan had led off the fourth with a walk. After working the count to 1-1, Sandoval fouled off five consecutive pitches before finally turning on an inside 95-mph fastball and hammering it onto the right-field pavilion for his third home run of the season.

"(Cashner) threw a great pitch, inside and high, and I got lucky," said Sandoval. "I got the barrel on it and up into the air."

Posey was so impressed with Sandoval's at-bat that he went and looked at the tape of it.

"I'd hate to have to call pitches to him," Posey said. "It looked like he was beat, he barely fouled four or five pitches and then turned on the sixth on a pitch that was on the black, inside corner."

But Lincecum was the star of the show. He threw four 1-2-3 innings in his first five. In the seventh, Bochy pulled Lincecum after 95 pitches with two out and two on. Left-hander Jose Mijares retired pinch hitter Mark Kotsay on a fly to right to end the inning.

Santiago Casilla bailed out the Giants for a second straight day by getting an eighth-inning double play, and Sergio Romo pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.