DENVER -- Giants starter Johnny Cueto resembled his old self for five innings, flustering a slumping Rockies offense, while Joe Panik went 5-for-6 and set a franchise record for hits in a three-game series in an 11-3 victory at Coors Field on Wednesday night.
The Rockies managed just a run off Cueto, coming in the fifth. Carlos Gonzalez -- a career .343 hitter against Cueto entering Wednesday -- batted in the three-hole to try to spark the offense. Though he reached base three times in Cueto's five innings, and went 2-for-2 overall, no other Rockies batter reached more than once against him.
With the loss, the Rockies' lead in the race for the second National League Wild Card fell to two games as the Cardinals beat the Padres to leapfrog the Brewers. The Brewers lost to the Reds and remained 2 1/2 games behind.
"We're concerned with what we do, we're not concerned with what other teams do," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "We have to play our game. Today we didn't pitch well. Cueto shut us down for five innings and they stretched the lead on us."
Rockies starter Kyle Freeland had his shortest start not interrupted by injury, giving up five runs (three earned) in 3 1/3 innings. Freeland struggled with his efficiency for the second straight start, needing 74 pitches against the Giants.
The young lefty said his fastball command has been off lately and he needs to fix that to reverse his recent rough patch. Over his past five starts, he has an ERA of 5.40.
"This happens to the best players, they go through ruts," Freeland said. "Right now I'm in one and I've just got figure out how to get myself out of it as quick as possible and learn from my mistakes. ... It's not a wall that you hit, that's something you've got to figure out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No reason to Panik: Panik had a series for the history books, becoming the first player in Giants history with 12 hits in a three-game series. The previous record was 11 by Mike Benjamin, from June 13-15, 1995, against the Reds. Panik also had the hit that chased Freeland, lacing an RBI double to left field in the fourth.
"I feel like I'm in control of the at-bat," Panik said.
Arenado's rare miscue costly: Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in each of his first four seasons, but committed an uncharacteristic fielding error in the first. Giants catcher Nick Hundley grounded a potential double-play ball right to Arenado, but it skipped under his glove to load the bases. The error led to two unearned runs on a hit by Austin Slater, and the Giants never trailed.
"I thought his hit was one that did a lot for the ballclub," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Slater, who played his first game since a groin injury July 7. "We had a tough time getting it going early, and we got it from him."
"It's good not to get skunked here." -- Bochy, after the Giants broke a 10-game losing streak at Coors Field dating back to last season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Pablo Sandoval reached a new level of Giants infamy. Though he didn't start, Sandoval struck out pinch-hitting in the sixth, setting a franchise hitless streak record at 0-for-38 since the team moved to San Francisco.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: Following a scheduled off-day -- their first of four consecutive free Thursdays -- the Giants will open a three-game Interleague series Friday against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Matt Moore, who thrived during his American League days against the White Sox (4-1, 1.45 ERA in five starts), will get the ball for the Giants in the 5:10 p.m. PT encounter.
Rockies: The Rockies head to Los Angeles for a four-game series starting at 8:10 p.m. MT on Thursday. Jon Gray will make his second start of the season vs. the Dodgers. Gray faced L.A. on April 8 before his foot injury, giving up one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He'll oppose Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium.