SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that "it's fair to say" the Giants are leaning toward starting right-hander Tim Lincecum in Thursday's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at St. Louis.

That's subject to one significant condition: If Lincecum were to appear in relief during Monday night's Game 2, he likely wouldn't be able to rebound physically in time to start Game 4.

Lincecum was the lone member of San Francisco's regular-season rotation dropped from the postseason starting contingent. That resulted from his 10-15 record and his 5.18 ERA, which was the highest among the 46 NL pitchers who accumulated enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

But Lincecum has excelled in the postseason, allowing one run and three hits in 8 1/3 innings spanning three appearances. He has walked one and struck out nine -- a marked improvement from his ratio during the regular season, when he walked 90 and struck out 190.

"If he starts, I'd be eager to see him, the way he's throwing the ball," Bochy said before Monday's Game 2.

Crawford, Descalso go way back, on soccer field

SAN FRANCISCO -- Having both grown up in the Bay Area, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso often crossed each other's paths on fields of play, which does not come as a surprise.

What is unexpected is that the competing National League Championship Series infielders' first encounter wasn't on a diamond, but on a pitch -- as in, soccer field.

NLCS

"Yeah, we were teammates when we were like 5 years old," said Crawford, adding that their positions were "everything. At that age, you kind of rotate positions. It was like T-ball in baseball.

"That was a long time ago and, no, I didn't remember. But when I ended up playing against him, like 10 years later in Babe Ruth Baseball and an AAU championship, my dad reminded me."

Between the 25-year-olds, Descalso is slightly older -- he will turn 26 during this NLCS, in fact. Descalso also is more accessorized, having already earned a ring with the Cardinals last October.

The two are remarkably similar, right down to the oddity of being lefty-hitting middle infielders, which require being right-handed throwers. So when Crawford describes his old soccer teammate, he could be describing himself.

"He's a great player," Crawford said. "Scrappy. He kind of defines the Cardinals and how they play, just grinds out hits, has power and plays good defense."

Zito, Bumgarner options for Game 5 start

SAN FRANCISCO -- Assuming Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum starts Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that he'd be presented with a choice between Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner to start Friday's Game 5, if it's played.

Bochy indicated that he might not name his Game 5 starter until after Game 4, which would be consistent with the deliberate nature of his starting pitching decisions through most of the postseason.

Bochy said that the Giants' status in the series, along with the state of the pitching staff, would help him determine a Game 5 starter.

Bochy refused to rule out Bumgarner as an option, despite the 23-year-old's subpar Game 1 performance (six runs and eight hits allowed in 3 2/3 innings).

Bochy noted that Bumgarner occasionally lost his rhythm with his pitching delivery.

"That concerned me a little bit," Bochy said.

Bochy acknowledged discussing with his staff the possibility that Bumgarner might be enduring a dead-arm phase.

"I think at this time of year, especially with a young pitcher like Madison, you're going to have those conversations," Bochy said, though he reiterated that Bumgarner's velocity has not diminished substantially.

"If I thought his stuff had dropped that dramatically, I would worry about it," Bochy said. "But he still had good stuff. He's just making mistakes. It's not like he's throwing 85, 86 [mph]."

But even Bumgarner admitted after Game 1 that his pitches lacked late movement and noted that he has scaled down his between-starts throwing routine to preserve his energy. Bumgarner's 5.47 ERA for September/October was by far his worst for any regular-season month.

"Sometimes they throw too much," Bochy said. "This is a case where less is more, for the most part, at this time of year."