Kept in perspective, Tim Lincecum's impressive performance Saturday night will not be enough to ease the anxious minds of the Giants.

Nor will it completely soothe Lincecum's troubled soul.

The right-hander's eight shutout innings, however, did plenty to encourage all involved in a game that required 12 innings for a San Francisco victory over the Houston Astros.

Under the keen observation of his employers, aided by a twilight start and facing a vulnerable opponent, Lincecum was at a critical stage. If the struggling right-hander could dominate Houston's woeful lineup, while perhaps exhibiting a few shades of the two-time Cy Young Award winner of yore, the Giants brain trust could exhale and stay with their preferred plan, which is keeping him in the rotation.

If Lincecum could not contain the worst team in baseball, Plans B and C and D were lurking in the background, dreaded responses the Giants did not wish to ponder.

Lincecum responded with perhaps his best performance this season, allowing five hits and striking out a season-high 11. He was in line for the victory until a chaotic ninth when closer Santiago Casilla allowed Houston to tie the game and send it to extra innings.

Lincecum, however, did enough to delight the sellout crowd, which supported him with the nurturing fervor of 42,171 Little League parents. It was enough to warrant a standing ovation when Lincecum walked off after retiring the Astros in the

eighth.