Giants capitalize on errors, tighten Wild Card race
By Chris Haft and Thomas Harding
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants got everything they needed Thursday night. They reclaimed some of their lost offense, received a strong performance from starter Johnny Cueto and recorded a much-needed victory with a 7-2 decision over the Colorado Rockies.
Cueto's deft bunt single and an accompanying throwing error by Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado accounted for two runs in San Francisco's three-run, sixth-inning outburst that broke a 2-2 tie.
The outcome tightened the National League Wild Card race entering the regular season's final weekend. The idle New York Mets (85-74) continued to hold on to the first Wild Card spot, while the Giants (84-75) possess the second Wild Card berth, a game back of New York. The St. Louis Cardinals (83-76) remained a game behind the Giants with their controversial triumph over Cincinnati.
Sufficiently recovered from a strained left groin that forced him to miss a start, Cueto (18-5) yielded a pair of first-inning runs but soon regained his typical form. His strikeout total matched a single-game season high that he reached when he blanked San Diego, 1-0, on April 26.
"He didn't show any effect from the injury," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "What a gutty effort he gave us."
Having won only their second home series since the All-Star break, the Giants proceed to a three-game series against the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have clinched the NL West, but if tradition is maintained, the Dodgers will strive to prevent the Giants from reaching the postseason.
"It's exciting," Bochy said. "We certainly wish we were in a better position, but you don't stop fighting."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Small ball comes up big: Another key bunt besides Cueto's in the Giants' sixth-inning rally was laid down by Angel Pagan, who kept a roller fair up the third-base line. The Giants then loaded the bases on Joe Panik's grounder to first baseman Gerardo Parra, whose throw to third was too late to retire a sliding Brandon Crawford. Conor Gillaspie's sacrifice fly preceded Cueto's bunt.
"Those were beauties," Bochy said of the pair of bunts.
Another solid swing: Rockies rookie outfielder David Dahl has made his mark during a rough road trip. His first-inning triple off Cueto drove in the Rockies' second run and was his fourth extra-base hit of the trip. He also homered off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on Sunday and doubled in each of the first two games against the Giants.
Adding on: The Giants padded their lead with a pair of eighth-inning runs, something that typically eludes them and has left them vulnerable to opponents' comebacks. Brandon Belt's bases-loaded walk and Buster Posey's sacrifice fly accounted for the scoring.
Hurting in more ways than one: The sixth started painfully for Rockies right-hander Jon Gray, when Crawford's smash to the mound smoked the outside of his right ankle. Gray compounded the issue by throwing wildly to first base to let Crawford reach second. Gray also played a part in the Arenado error that gave the Giants two runs on Cueto's bunt. Arenado looked to be planning to cover third, but Gray veered away from the bunt. Arenado had to field the ball, and his throw to first was wild.
"We gave them a couple of extra outs in that inning and it cost us," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. More »
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Each Giants starting pitcher recorded double-digit strikeout totals in the series against the Rockies as Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto totaled 11 apiece on Tuesday through Thursday. According to Stats, it's just the second time since 1913 that Giants starters recorded 10-plus strikeouts in three consecutive games. The only other time this happened was Aug. 24-27, 1975, when Ed Halicki (10 strikeouts against the Mets in a no-hitter), Pete Falcone (12 strikeouts against Montreal) and John Montefusco (14 strikeouts against Montreal) accomplished the feat.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Giants challenged a third-inning ruling at first base, where Daniel Descalso was declared safe on a pickoff attempt by Cueto. A video review confirmed that first baseman Belt indeed brushed his glove against Descalso before the Rockies baserunner made it back to the bag, and the call was overturned.
The Rockies' challenge, in hopes of getting an out that could have mitigated damage in the sixth, fizzled when a safe call -- Crawford sliding back to third to beat Rockies first baseman Parra's throw -- was ruled to stand after review. Parra had fielded Panik's bouncer.
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: Right-hander Chad Bettis will begin the final homestand of the season, against the Brewers and lefty Brent Suter on Friday at 6:10 p.m. MT.
Giants: The Giants begin their final regular-season series with a Friday night contest against the archrival Dodgers starting at 7:15 p.m. PT. Two of the Majors' top left-handers, San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner and Los Angeles' Rich Hill, will oppose each other.