In the 17 seasons that Brian Sabean has been general manager, the Giants have drafted and nurtured a lot of good pitchers who share one trivial history: They didn't win their big-league debuts.

Matt Cain didn't. Tim Lincecum didn't. Madison Bumgarner didn't.

Mike Kickham, the first Giant to start a game in his major-league debut since Eric Surkamp in 2011, joined the list Tuesday night in a performance that was too brief and not what he had hoped.

The 24-year-old allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 6-3 loss to the A's, matching Matt Palmer for the shortest outing among the 11 Giants who have made their big-league debuts in a start during the Sabean era.

Kickham gave up a two-run Derek Norris home run and a bases-loaded walk. Kickham allowed only four homers in his 10 starts for Triple-A Fresno, an accomplishment in the Pacific Coast League.

"It went by fast," the bespectacled left-hander said. "It was a great experience pitching in a major-league game. Obviously, it's been a goal of mine. Mark it off my list. But my goal isn't to pitch one game in the big-leagues. It's to have a career."

Kickham showed enough in his short outing to suggest he can achieve that goal, with a fastball that touched 94 mph and two offspeed pitches that generated a fair number of befuddled half-swings.

He retired Oakland in order in a nine-pitch first inning that included his first big-league strikeout (Chris Young). In fact, Kickham struck out three of his first six hitters.

But then he started falling behind, with predictable results: He retired only two of his final nine hitters.

Norris lined a 3-1 fastball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer in the second inning. Kickham walked Jed Lowrie to force in a run in the third after manager Bruce Bochy had Josh Donaldson walked intentionally. When Nate Freiman followed with a scoring single that gave Oakland a 4-1 lead, Kickham's night was through.

He retreated to the dugout, where he got a lot of encouraging words from pitching coach Dave Righetti and teammates.

"I like what he showed for his first start up here," Bochy said. "It got shaky, sure, but I thought he had impressive stuff. He just couldn't get out of that third inning. He was missing, but he wasn't missing by much."

Bochy acknowledged he put Kickham in a "tough situation" by having Donaldson walked to load the bases and remove any margin for error with Lowrie, but Bochy said the decision was a "no-brainer" because Donaldson is the A's big run producer and hits lefties well.

Kickham is due to start again Sunday in St. Louis, where he rooted for the Cardinals as a boy growing up nearby. But his early exit Tuesday required Bochy to use the bullpen for 5 2/3 innings, including three by Chad Gaudin.