McGowan was admittedly off his game, throwing nearly as many balls as strikes against the Giants at AT&T Park. Unlike earlier starts this season, he was able to overcome his own inefficiencies to help Toronto conclude its West Coast swing with a 7-4 victory over San Francisco.
"My body felt good, but I was struggling with myself out there," McGowan said. "That shows what you're made of sometimes. Those are the games that you have to get through."
Aided by seven early runs of support from Toronto's offense, McGowan fought through six innings and escaped with his third win in four trips to the mound. The right-hander issued one walk in each of the first four frames and allowed the leadoff man to reach base in four of his six innings, but McGowan found ways to limit the damage.
"He was solid, but he wasn't as sharp," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, trying to assess McGowan's performance. "'Laboring' isn't the right word, but he battled out there. He got some big strikeouts when we needed some, and we gave him a little breathing room to work with."
When his night was through, McGowan (3-2) had thrown 92 pitches, including 53 for strikes. He issued four walks -- none of which led to a run for the Giants -- and notched six strikeouts. With the win, McGowan improved to 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last four outings for Toronto (31-34), which finished 3-3 on its trip through Los Angeles and San Francisco.
One of McGowan's biggest tests against the Giants (30-35) came in the fifth inning. The 25-year-old pitcher gave up consecutive singles to Nate Schierholtz and Randy Winn with one out, and the runners advanced one base each on a wild pitch later in the frame. McGowan settled down, striking out Omar Vizquel and inducing a flyout off the bat of Ray Durham to halt the threat.
"It's easy to go out when you have your good stuff and pitch good and say, 'I pitched well,'" McGowan said. "But when you don't have your good stuff and you get through it, that says a lot about you."
After shutting out the Giants in the opening three innings, McGowan hit his first snag in the fourth. He allowed a leadoff double to Ryan Klesko, who later scored on a single by Giants catcher Guillermo Rodriguez. San Francisco scored once more off McGowan in the sixth, when reliever Jonathan Sanchez doubled home Pedro Feliz.
By that time, though, Toronto had already built a substantial lead against San Francisco rookie Tim Lincecum (2-1). The Jays scored one run each in the first and third innings, and then sent Lincecum to the showers with a five-run outburst in the fourth -- highlighted by a two-run single by Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill.
"That always helps," said McGowan, referring to the seven runs of support. "That takes off a little pressure and gives you an opportunity to just pound the zone. If it's 1-0, you have to be a little more careful. We got that big inning, and we went from there."
Toronto's win wasn't void of a little late-inning drama. After McGowan's exit, Blue Jays left-hander Brian Tallet allowed an additional pair of runs in the eighth, snapping his career-best scoreless streak at 16 2/3 innings. That cut the Jays' lead down to three runs and opened the door for a save opportunity for closer Jeremy Accardo -- a member of the Giants' bullpen during the 2005-06 seasons.
In the ninth inning, Accardo walked Schierholtz with one out. That prompted San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who had been given the day off from starting, to step into the on-deck circle. The crowd began to stir and the cheers grew louder as more fans began to notice Bonds looming.
"I knew it was him," said Accardo, who had allowed four runs in his previous two appearances. "I peeked in there a little earlier in the previous at-bat, and I saw him getting ready. I've heard that roar quite a bit."
Accardo forced Winn to fly out to left field, which meant that a game-tying home run by Bonds was taken out of the equation. Then, Accardo avoided becoming the 441st victim of a Bonds blast by striking out the outfielder to end the game, picking up his eighth save of the year in the process.
"It was nice to face him -- the way the outcome came," Accardo said with a smile. "It just as easily could've went the other way with him."
The game could've easily gone in an opposite direction for McGowan, too.
"He's just coming into his own," Gibbons said. "He's gaining confidence."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.