SAN FRANCISCO -- Never mind the combined .311 average against Giants hurler Tim Lincecum with which Oakland's starting nine entered Saturday's mid-afternoon affair.
Lincecum's numbers against the A's were even better.
San Francisco's two-time Cy Young Award winner came into the contest 4-0 in five career starts against the A's, whose scuffling offense has faced intermittent struggles this season and saw those very woes shine under a magnifying glass in a 3-0 loss.
Amidst a cast of shadows, the A's managed just three hits off Lincecum, who retired 21 straight at one point while tossing 133 pitches in his third career complete game against the green and gold and improving to 5-0 against them -- numbers that haven't fazed the pitcher.
"Maybe it's that I don't see them that much throughout the year," Lincecum said. "I have no idea."
"He was very tough," A's manager Bob Geren said. "It looked like he was pretty much at the top of the game. He threw the ball about as good as I've seen him."
As a result, the A's were left staring down a season-high fourth straight defeat and have lost seven of their last 10 while dropping to 22-24 on the year -- all just four days after a 14-0 victory over the division-rival Angels for a share of first place in the American League West.
That standing has since been lost. It's early in the season, but the A's realize now may be the time to gain ground on Angels and Rangers ballclubs that are currently without a handful of key lineup members.
That's hard to do, though, even with a starting pitching staff that owns an AL-best 2.83 ERA, when the club's hitters ranks near the bottom of every offensive category in the league.
"We need to string some hits together and make something happen," said Kevin Kouzmanoff, who left in the eighth inning with a right groin strain. "It's hard when you don't have any momentum. I think hitting is a contagious thing. Sometimes when things aren't going well, you try to do too much. I think that's a natural thing, and sometimes you have to take a step back. The biggest thing is to not try to get a hit but to get a good pitch to hit, and whatever happens after that happens."
Not much was going Saturday, as Lincecum's impressive showing made A's hurler Brett Anderson's solid work go for naught, the lefty picking up a loss after allowing just one run through five frames.
The lone damage against Anderson came early, as the Giants' Andres Torres drew a consequential leadoff walk from Oakland's starter for a second straight day. Torres advanced to third on Freddy Sanchez's line-drive double and scored on Buster Posey's groundout.
"You don't want to ever give up a run in the first inning," Anderson said. "You walk the leadoff guy and he comes around to score, and it's kind of unfortunate, but you have to put that behind you."
He did, tossing four scoreless frames thereafter. But he gave up one hit in each of those innings, making for what seemed like a lengthy 91-pitch outing. Anderson was removed in the top of the sixth in favor of pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui, who softly grounded out against Lincecum with one out and no runners on.
"My mechanics were off a bit in the first inning, and I was able to make some adjustments," Anderson said. "I didn't have a clean inning one through five and, giving up one run through five, most of the time it's not bad, but against a guy like Lincecum, it kind of puts you behind the eight ball. I'm kind of half-pleased, half-not pleased with my outing."
Geren said his decision to bring in Matsui would have been the same in an American League park, noting Anderson was "done" at that point.
"He wasn't quite as sharp as he had been," the A's skipper said. "His strike ratio was a little down at times, but he used his fastball pretty well, and I thought when he needed to go to his breaking ball, he did."
The Giants were held at bay until Brad Ziegler was charged with two runs in the eighth. Meanwhile San Francisco's starter breezed through a lackluster A's lineup, creating a rather glum day aside from Joey Devine's sixth-inning relief stint.
Devine, making his first Major League appearance since Sept. 28, 2008, following two-plus years of Tommy John surgery rehab, proceeded to allow just one hit in one inning, giving his teammates something to cheer about in an otherwise frustrating day.
"Not too many positives today with the outcome, but that was one good thing that came out today," Geren said. "It's a big step for him, and I really feel like he's going to be a big part of our team the rest of the way."
Geren's club steps into Sunday's series finale hoping to avoid its ninth straight loss at AT&T Park, where the hits have been few and far between this weekend, evidenced by an 8-for-64 showing over the past two days.
"Obviously it's difficult to win with three hits like we had today, but you battle the best you can," he said. "We didn't have a whole lot of opportunities, that's for sure."