Giants cruise to series win after big first inning

Giants cruise to series win after big first inning

Giants cruise to series win after big first inning
DENVER -- The Giants and Rockies battled each other for 3 1/2 hours on a crisp fall night at Coors Field on Wednesday, but the game was all but over after the first half-hour. On the strength of a five-run rally in the first frame, the Giants won the game, 8-3, and the series, taking two straight to close the three-game set and improve to 10-4 against Colorado on the season.

San Francisco picked up a game in the standings over the Dodgers, who lost to Arizona, and extended their lead to a season-high seven games in the National League West.

"It's not an easy place to win games," manager Bruce Bochy said. "This is a tough place to play, and they are always tough here. Anything can happen."

The first five Giants all reached base on four hits and a fielder's choice against Rockies starter Jeff Francis, and four of them came around to score as San Francisco batted around in the inning. Gregor Blanco led the game off with a triple and scored on the next pitch when Marco Scutaro singled. Buster Posey, Joaquin Arias and Hector Sanchez all added base hits to the rally, and Brandon Crawford doubled to right to plate two final runs before Tim Lincecum grounded to second to end the inning.

"Being aggressive was the key in the first inning," Sanchez said. "Swinging at pitches that were around the zone. That's important. Especially with men in scoring position, we hit the ball in a good spot. After that, [Francis] tried to work more on his pitches, probably looking for more corner. He did a good job after that."

Lincecum extended his winning streak to three games with his third consecutive quality start. He scattered three runs over six innings, allowing six hits and four walks while striking out eight.

"He's really elevated his game and got on track here, which is huge for us," Bochy said. "The way he's throwing the ball, winning games -- we've had a couple starters who've had their hiccups, but he's picked up his game and helped pick us up."

His first two walks gave him walks in each of his last 10 innings pitched, a feat not matched by a Giant since John D'Acquisto accomplished the unenviable feat 36 years ago in 1976. To his credit, only two of the 11 walks Lincecum allowed in the stretch came around to score.

"It's kind of messing with fire," Lincecum said. "It only takes one bloop hit to turn those into a big inning or, worse, a loss. But getting out of it gives me the confidence to know that if I get into a jam or a situation like that right now I can get out of it, or my team's going to get me out of it, too."

Lincecum allowed a run in the first when he walked Carlos Gonzalez, balked him to second, then watched him score on a Wilin Rosario single to left. Rosario later blasted a solo shot to the upper rows of the left-field seats in the third, but Lincecum got better as he went and never let the Rockies build a rally.

"You come here and you try to make sure you hit your spots, because the ball at times can move a little bit differently than we're expecting it to," Lincecum said. "So I thought I was just trying to be too fine those first two innings. And after that, I opened my sights to a bigger, broader zone for throwing strikes and just attacked the zone."

The Rockies added a final run in the sixth when Chris Nelson singled and Charlie Blackmon knocked a two-out, pinch-hit double to plate him, eliciting a trot to the mound by Bochy before Lincecum faced his final hitter, Dexter Fowler, retiring him on a slider, curve and fastball, all for strikes.

"I said, 'You're the guy right now; focus on the pitches,'" Bochy said. "He made three great pitches there. I think he knew that was it, his last hitter. He gave it his all on those three pitches, and he threw three great ones."

San Francisco added a run in the sixth when Crawford smacked his second double of the night off the right-field scoreboard and Scutaro drove him home with a hit to left.

"I hadn't had a bad game like [Tuesday's] since early in the season," Crawford said of his bad-luck at-bats the night before. "It was nice to forget about that one and come through with a two-out and two-strike hit."

Scutaro added his third hit of the night in the ninth with a leadoff single and scored on Hunter Pence's triple, with Pence coming home on Arias' sacrifice fly.

Bochy managed the final innings like he was protecting a one-run lead in the postseason, using seven pitchers to get nine outs, including three in the ninth.

"The way they're constructed now in the month of September, they have a pitcher for every hitter," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Their manager does a masterful job of handling the different situations to negate any kind of competitive advantage that we can try to create for ourselves with matchups. It's almost impossible to do with the number of quality arms they have down in their bullpen."

Bochy was equally admiring of the team in the opposing dugout, emphasizing that his late-inning strategy was borne out of seeing too many late leads lost to the Rockies' bats.

"We all know this ballpark," Bochy said. "Last night they mounted a pretty good comeback. There's no safe lead here. That's respect to their team and this ballpark. I've been here a few times when I've seen some comebacks. You don't want to get a rally going here, because when momentum gets going, it's hard to stop."

If there was any doubt about the value of momentum, the Giants' 20 wins in 30 games while picking up six games in the standings makes the case.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.