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“They score runs for him,” general manager Brian Sabean said, “in very odd ways.”

With the Giants, Zito has never been the dominant pitcher he had been across the bay as a member of Oakland’s Big Three with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Fans quickly gave up hope of Zito turning things around when he went 43-61 over his first five seasons with the Giants.

In a strange turn of roles, it was Lincecum _ who pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher against the Rangers in 2010 _ who came in for Zito. Lincecum credits the veteran lefty for showing him how to better handle the struggles, like this season when The Freak fell into a long funk.

Lincecum came through, too. He pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief with five strikeouts.

Lincecum’s outing marked the first time one Cy Young Award winner relieved another in the World Series since Baltimore’s Jim Palmer came in for Mike Flanagan in 1983 against the Philadelphia Phillies, according to STATS LLC.

Zito and Lincecum certainly will share a hug or a handshake after this one.

“He’s a lot tougher than people think and he’s got a lot of pride and respect for the game,” Sabean said of Zito. “He really wanted to be out there.”