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04/11/10 2:46 AM ET

Pitching prowess on tap in Giants-Braves finale

The Giants expect more of the same from Tim Lincecum on Sunday in the series finale against Atlanta. The Braves simply expect more from their starter, Kenshin Kawakami, in his season debut.

The San Francisco star looked every bit like the two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner that he is in the season opener at Houston last week, surrendering four hits, walking none and striking out seven in seven shutout innings.

"Just seeing some of the swings that some of the guys were taking -- it's like, man, that's gotta be doing some stuff. Guys just didn't look comfortable," said first baseman Aubrey Huff, who never had seen Lincecum pitch a regular-season game before last week. "Just watching him [Monday], I really kind of get an idea what it's all about. He has an ability to step it up."

Lincecum is now 41-17 in his last 58 decisions and is one of only two active pitchers to win 40 of his first 47, joining Tim Hudson, who went 43-14. He is now 34-2 when the Giants score at least three runs for him.

The Giants' ace is still keeping his eye on the prize.

"We always talk about winning being the main goal here and getting into the playoffs," Lincecum said. "The objective is that World Series ring."

That's not good news for Atlanta.

Lincecum is 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in six career outings against the Braves, which included a memorable game at Turner Field in August 2008 when he began pitching from the stretch to regain his coordination and effectiveness.

As for Kawakami, he enters his second Major League season more comfortable with his surroundings and armed with a two-seam fastball that he began toying with after last year's All-Star break.

"He absolutely belongs in a Major League rotation," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "It depends how many runs we get him, whether or not he could get [his win total] in the teens. He gives you a good ballgame every time out. I was impressed with him last year very much, and he's a competitor."

Kawakami went 6-7 with a 3.42 ERA in his final 21 starts last year and allowed the Braves to feel better about the three-year, $23 million contract they gave him before the start of the 2009 season. He also showed confidence on the mound during Spring Training, allowing just one earned run in his last 11 innings of Grapefruit League play.

The blister that he incurred during his last Grapefruit League start is gone.

"There was a lot of pressure to show what kind of stuff I had and what would work over here," Kawakami said of last season. "After a year of where players are comfortable seeing what I have and even the fans are more comfortable seeing what I have, I can try things out much more comfortably."

Kawakami allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings when he faced the Giants in San Francisco in May and then limited them to one run in five innings during a July start against them in Atlanta.

Braves not feeling chipper:
The Braves will need the rest of the lineup to pick up the slack because Chipper Jones remains questionable and is still listed as day-to-day because of the oblique he strained Thursday. "It's taken two or three days to three or four weeks," Jones said of his past oblique problems. "We've done all we can [this time] to get it on its way [to healing] and we'll just have to wait and see."

The switch-hitter spent time on the disabled list with an oblique strain in 2006 and has been bothered by side issues at times ever since.

Giants around the horn:
Lincecum is 21-8 with a 2.84 ERA on the road and 19-9, 2.97 at home. ... Veteran catcher Bengie Molina, 35, was given Saturday night off but is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday to catch Lincecum. ... Pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner gave up four runs and 11 hits in three innings while pitching for Triple-A Fresno against Reno. Manager Bruce Bochy said, "According to the reports, it wasn't quite as bad as the numbers indicated. His velocity was fine. He just had trouble putting hitters away." ... The Giants' average age is 29 years -- 30 for position players and 28 for pitchers. The oldest Giant is Guillermo Mota, 36, and the youngest is Waldis Joaquin, 23.

Worth noting:
The 2000 San Francisco Giants will be honored for the 10th anniversary of the first game at AT&T Park. A pregame ceremony will be held for 14 players from the 2000 team, including Giants greats Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Kirk Rueter, Robb Nen, Ellis Burks and J.T. Snow. The first 20,000 fans will receive a Giants magnetic schedule. Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch will be Rueter, who threw the first regular-season pitch in AT&T Park history.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.