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San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Tim Lincecum throws during the sixth inning of Game 3 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Detroit.

DETROIT -- Tim Lincecum almost fits in with the rest of the Giants relievers.

He's missing it by a whisker.

"Timmy's got the long, wacky hair on the top of his head, not on his face," closer Sergio Romo pointed out.

With everything else, though, Lincecum has the makings of a bullpen ace -- even if Giants manager Bruce Bochy vowed Saturday night that The Freak would be back in the rotation for 2013.

Bochy had to make such an assurance after Lincecum looked like a natural-born reliever again in Game 3 of the World Series. He delivered 21/3 more electric innings to help the Giants hold on for a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

"When the lights come on in the biggest stage, he's showed everybody what he's all about," said starter Ryan Vogelsong, the beneficiary of Lincecum's cleanup work. "He's thrown the ball unbelievably well this whole postseason out of the bullpen."

A mess during the regular season, Lincecum is 1-0 with 0.69 ERA in 13 relief innings during the playoffs. Only 10 times in playoff history has a reliever thrown at least 13 innings with a lower ERA. (Mariano Rivera is on the list four times.)

In those 13 innings, Lincecum has allowed just one run on three hits with two walks. The Freak-iest number of all: 17 strikeouts.

"He's been a big-time pitcher, and that's obviously a pretty nice weapon for them in the bullpen," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

You don't win two Cy Young Awards, as Lincecum has, by racking up holds. But Lincecum has embraced his role as baseball's most famous middle reliever. And Bochy and his Giants teammates said that's been the key to the pitcher's rebirth.

"He could have been upset about going to the bullpen -- and not one second did you ever see that from him," Vogelsong said. "He just went down there and came out firing BBs."

Vogelsong was grateful for the latest round. He was trying to gut his way through the sixth inning, clinging to a 2-0 lead, but with two out he walked Andy Dirks on his 104th and final pitch.

Bochy went to the mound and summoned the four-time All-Star who couldn't crack his postseason rotation.

Lincecum promptly snuffed the sixth-inning threat by getting Jhonny Peralta on a fly ball to right.

After a scoreless seventh, he really got rolling in the eighth. That's when Lincecum struck out Prince Fielder (with a diving 84 mph changeup in the dirt) and later Dirks (85 mph in the same place).

Is Lincecum sure he doesn't want to do this reliever gig full time?

"That thought never really crossed my mind," he said. "Right now, the bullpen role is for the World Series. And that's my mindset. ... I'm just going to be out there as a safety net kind of thing."

Bochy left Lincecum out of the rotation in part because he figured he was the starter best suited to bullpen life. For one thing, The Freak can get warmed up in a jiffy. For another, he has a resilient arm that allows him to withstand frequent or sporadic use.

With each relief outing, Lincecum seems to get better. Over his past three outings out of the bullpen, Lincecum has faced 21 hitters -- and allowed zero hits with nine strikeouts.

Lincecum shrugged. The way he explained it Saturday, his postseason ERA is an IOU for a lousing regular season.

"I know this season I didn't do exactly what I wanted to do," he said of going 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA. "So to go out there and do something for the team, whether that's for an inning, two innings, or four innings -- that's my goal."