Imagine the odds on this prop bet had any Las Vegas bookmaker been foolish enough to take it: that the Giants would finish the first half of their 2012 schedule in first place with 45 wins, but only four in Tim Lincecum's 17 starts.

There the Giants stand after they reached the season's midpoint the same way they started it April 6, with Lincecum battered in defeat.

Tuesday night's 9-3 loss to the Nationals was disconcerting not merely because Lincecum allowed eight runs for the first time in his career, but that it happened after he finally seemed to banish the struggles that began with his Opening Day loss in Arizona.

Surely Freak-watchers will say he took a "step back" after two good starts, but Lincecum is trying excise those words from his lexicon.

"I think that's where I've been wrong, looking at all the negatives, whether it was a step forward or a step back as opposed to 'Where can I go from here?' " he said. "Obviously it was a bad outing, but the next outing has nothing to do with today. It's about getting better the next four days."

Lincecum's best hope is a cooling trend.