SAN DIEGO -- There was no doubt in Tim Lincecum's mind as he headed to the mound in the ninth inning that he would throw his first shutout.
The San Francisco Giants' right-hander, who had never thrown a complete game in 53 previous career starts, pitched a four-hitter to lead the Giants to a 7-0 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
The 24-year-old threw his finest game in the majors and may have also swayed more voters in the NL Cy Young race.
Lincecum (17-3) sailed through nine innings against the Padres, throwing a career-high 138 pitches. He held the Padres to four singles and struck out 12 to win his sixth straight decision.
"I felt pretty good still," Lincecum said. "The adrenaline kind of takes over a little bit. I kind of got a little extra energy with the last couple of batters. It was nice to finish up the game."
The right-hander leads the majors with 237 strikeouts and had his eighth double-digit strikeout game this season. He lowered his NL-best ERA to 2.43.
Lincecum had come within two outs of his first complete game in his last start, a 6-2 win over Arizona. Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted to give Lincecum every chance to finally nail it down.
"He put me in a tough spot there, but I know how bad he wanted it," said Bochy.
Lincecum had already thrown 118 pitches through eight innings.
"The fact that he had a chance for a shutout, that's big for a pitcher," Bochy added. "There was no question that we were going to give him a chance to get that shutout."
"I was glad to help early and get [Lincecum] settled down early," Molina said. "I didn't think it was going out at all. It sounded good off the bat, but I never thought it was going out."
From the beginning, Molina said he thought this might be the night that Lincecum threw his first complete game.
"When we went up 2-0, I had in my head that he could do it with the way he has been pitching," Molina said.
Lincecum, who walked three and hit a batter, continued his second-half surge as he stayed unbeaten in his last 10 starts. The last time Lincecum lost was on July 20, against Milwaukee.
Lincecum figures to have at least two starts, possibly three left in the Giants' final 14 games. The talk for the NL Cy Young will continue to intensify for Lincecum with his late charge against Arizona's Brandon Webb.
Webb (20-7) is the NL's only 20-game winner, and has an ERA of 3.28. He has thrown three complete games and one shutout.
"If you consider everything, I think you have to look at what Tim has done," Bochy said.
Young agreed with Bochy saying, "I think he certainly deserves as much consideration as anyone else."
Brian Giles and Nick Hundley had the only two hits off Lincecum in the first eight innings before Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff added consecutive, two-out singles in the ninth. Lincecum struck out Edgar Gonzalez for the final out.
"His stuff is unbelievable," said Edgar Gonzalez. "Whatever he does, he's pretty effective."
Adrian Gonzalez, who had hit three two-run homers in the past two games, struck out three times.
"He looked pretty good in the ninth, as good as he looked in the first inning," Molina said.
Lincecum continued his mastery of the Padres this season. Lincecum is 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA with 49 strikeouts in six starts against San Diego.
"I felt like I had everything going," Lincecum said.
Young, making his third start since coming off the disabled list with a strained right forearm, gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
"After I gave up the home run, that was all [Lincecum] needed," said Young. "The guy is a stud. He's been that way all year."
Young came within four outs of pitching a perfect game in his last outing last Sunday at Milwaukee.
Randy Winn, who stretched his hitting streak to 10 games, singled in the first run in the ninth.
The Giants have won seven of eight games.
The loss leaves San Diego (57-92) one-half game ahead of Washington (56-92) in the race to avoid finishing with the worst record in the majors. The Padres needs to win six of their final 13 games to avoid losing 100 games for the sixth time in the franchise's 40-year history.
Lincecum's eighth 10-plus strikeout game this season was second most in San Francisco history behind Jason Schmidt's nine in 2004. ... Lincecum surpassed 200 innings for the first time in his career. ... Kouzmanoff was hit by a pitch from Lincecum in the second inning, tying Gene Tenace's single-season club record of 13 set in 1977.