Tim Lincecum provides steady relief as Giants win 8-3 and force NLDS to Game 5

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The Giants looked to be in big trouble when starter Barry Zito allowed three walks and a single in the first inning of Wednesday’s NLDS Game 4 vs. the Reds and a home run to Ryan Ludwick in the third.

But the fellas in the gray “San Francisco” jerseys were the ones sharing handshakes on the field in Cincinnati once the evening was through.

George Kontos and Jose Mijares kept the dangerous Reds offense from inflicting anymore damage when Zito was pulled in the bottom of the third inning, then Tim Lincecum entered in the bottom of the fourth and delivered 4 1/3 frames of one-run ball while fanning six Reds batters, walking none and surrendering just two hits.

It was Lincecum’s second relief appearance of this 2012 postseason, and he was absolutely terrific. The 28-year-old right-hander tossed 42 of his 55 pitches for strikes, looking like a reborn pitcher after registering a career-high 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 186 dismal innings during the regular season.

This wacky NLDS was led by the Reds 2-0 just two days ago. And now it’s suddenly 2-2.

Game 5 on Thursday will feature Cincy’s Mat Latos against Giants ace Matt Cain. It should be great.

Giants sign Austin Jackson to two-year, $6 million contract

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The Giants announced on Monday night the signing of outfielder Austin Jackson. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, it’s a two-year, $6 million deal with performance incentives that allow Jackson to earn up to an additional $2.5 million for a total of $8.5 million.

Jackson, who soon turns 31 years old, spent last season with the Indians. In 318 plate appearances, he hit .318/.387/.482 with seven home runs, 35 RBI, and 46 runs scored.

The Giants have been on the hunt for a center fielder and Jackson addresses that need relatively cheaply. Jackson will join Hunter Pence and newcomer Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.