SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum went to the mound here Sunday afternoon with the mission of proving that the Giants do not have a Tim Lincecum problem.

"He did a nice job," said manager Bruce Bochy.

Uh, not right out of the gate.

After four batters in the top of the first inning, the Giants were behind by a score of 2-0, and Lincecum had retired just one New York Mets hitter. He had given up a monster home run to Curtis Granderson.

At that juncture, the thought balloon hovering above the entire crowd at AT&T Park was a unanimous: "Oh, fudge. Timmy is just not doing so super fantastic. Again."

(Or something like that.)

But then came the game's turnaround point, strange as it seems. And it tells us a lot about Lincecum that afterward everyone kind of agreed that it was a turning point.

Lincecum induced the next New York batter, Chris Young, to fly out.

That was all. That was it. The out ended the inning because Lincecum had earlier picked off a Mets base runner. But the point is, Lincecum did not allow his bad inning to become a very, very, very bad inning. Ever since his last winning season, in 2010, that has been his most uphill task.

"He regrouped," Bochy said. "He bounced back."

Which, in this case, was defined as Lincecum allowing just one more run through six innings, striking out six batters and walking one before emerging with a 6-4 victory.

"After my last outing, I needed to show a little bit more out there," Lincecum said, referring to last week's wreckage in Cincinnati when he allowed eight earned runs in less than five innings.

Does any of this mean Lincecum, who owns a 5-4 record, is fixed? Of course not. But he is performing a valuable service for Giants aficionados and followers, even if they don't realize it. Baseball fans, even when their team is going great, still must have something to worry about and agonize over. Otherwise, they wouldn't have as much fun.

Lincecum fulfills that role perfectly for Giants fans, largely because of his beloved history with the team. He is like the troubled relative over whom they dote and fret, hoping for the best but never totally expecting it.

The Giants are having a bang-up spring. With their 42-21 record, they are off to their best start after 63 games since 1962. But even the most happy journey has unreliable baggage. For the Giants starting rotation, that baggage is mostly Lincecum. Matt Cain is also an issue, but he (A) has been injured and (B) looked solid in his last game.

Lincecum, until further notice, remains a tightrope walk every five days. He has yet to win back-to-back starts. And almost always, it's the mental side of his game that gets him off track.

For example, you know that successful pickoff in Sunday's first inning? Last week in Cincinnati, Lincecum had completely botched the same play, when Lincecum had wheeled around on the mound to catch a Reds runner on second base. When the runner took off for third, Lincecum appeared so stunned that he threw the ball toward second, and it bounced wildly into center field.

Sunday, Lincecum executed the same play perfectly, pivoting toward third base and throwing a perfect strike for the out. Had he done any special drills or practiced that since last week? No.

"That's all just mental," Lincecum said.

Bochy agreed, saying that Lincecum occasionally just needs to "be reminded" about the details of pickoff plays.

If it strikes you as odd that an eight-year veteran needs to be reminded of such stuff ... well, once more, that is the maddening charm of watching Lincecum.

"I know he was upset after the last game," Bochy said. "It's not easy to come out and start after you've had your struggles."

Despite his two-year, $35 million contract extension of the sort usually given to a team's ace, Lincecum doesn't face ace-like pressure. If he can manage his way to 14 or 15 victories, as he is close to on pace to do, no one will beef. Lincecum succeeds when he has command of his fastball. That was happening Sunday. Another good sign.

The Giants, in almost all ways, have a hard time finding anything to complain about these days. They once more ended their day with the best record in baseball. When visiting the home clubhouse, it's almost comical trying to watch players pretend their record is not a big deal.

"We knew were going to win 42 games at some point this season," said reliever Sergio Romo, with a shrug. "We're just off to a good start."

So is Lincecum, all things considered. At least until his next appearance. Until then, if you are a Giants fan, enjoy the angst.

Read Mark Purdy's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/purdy. Contact him at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.