Rockies come out slugging, see lead slip away
Three early homers not enough to end trend vs. Giants
DENVER -- It felt like a "throwback Thursday" as the Rockies resembled their clubs from the past while opening a four-game series with San Francisco. After a 2-4 road trip that saw them hit .210 while being blanked twice, the lineup erupted with three home runs through the first three innings at home, staking themselves to a 6-0 lead only to see it fade into an 8-6 defeat.
The disparity between road and home hitting was a Colorado calling card in the club's early days, and as frustrating as the slumbering lumber was on their recent road trip, the Rockies will forgive a boatload of road woes if they can counter with domination in Denver.
But the Rockies did their best Jekyll and Hyde impression, scoring six runs in the first three innings and notching only one hit over the final six. The turnaround stung, leaving the Colorado clubhouse numb as it clings to a winning record (21-20) after peaking at eight games over .500 in April.
"Sometimes six runs is enough, but it was not enough tonight," Carlos Gonzalez said. "[Matt] Cain pitched terrible, but [Jhoulys] Chacin pitched even worse."
Watching big leads disappear is another hallmark the Rockies would like to archive, and blowing a 6-0 advantage against Cain with the Rockies' Opening Day ace on the mound was not the way they envisioned opening a critical seven-game homestand against division rivals.
"When you got a guy that's one of the better pitchers in the league and you get to him early, you've got to be able to put him away," manager Walt Weiss said. "To his credit, he hung in there and ended up pitching into the seventh inning."
After Cain retired the Rockies in order in the first, Colorado came back with a three-run rally in the second. Wilin Rosario drove the first hit to right, then came home on the strength of Todd Helton's two-run round-tripper over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field, fair by a hair. Rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado capped the rally with a solo blast to left-center, giving the Rockies three runs on back-to-back homers hit on successive pitches.
Colorado kept surging in the next inning, as Gonzalez coaxed a leadoff walk out of Cain. Troy Tulowitzki followed with an infield single to short and Rosario launched his eighth home of the season over the right-field scoreboard for a three-run shot and a six-run lead.
Road or home, however, one of the most damning patterns of domination has been the Giants mastery over the Rockies, with San Francisco extending its win streak to 10 straight over Colorado.
"Especially here," Brandon Belt said of his team's confidence at Coors Field. "There are a lot of runs to be scored here."
After Chacin sailed through the first three innings, the Giants started rounding up runs, cutting the deficit from six to one by batting around in the fourth. Marco Scutaro singled to right to open the inning, and Pablo Sandoval walked before Chacin retired Buster Posey on a fly to left for the first out.
"I wasn't aggressive that inning," Chacin said. "I wasn't aggressive like the first three innings, throwing aggressive strikes. Those guys, they're always waiting for the opportunity to do damage. It was really tough, especially for the team that lost the game after scoring six runs the first three innings. They came all the way back and beat us."
Hunter Pence singled to right to load the bases, and Chacin walked Belt to bring in the Giants first run. Gregor Blanco then flied out to right, setting up Brandon Crawford's base-clearing double. Cain singled to left to plate the fifth and final run of the inning.
"It looked like he struggled with his command," Weiss said. "He had a hard time throwing strikes that inning. He got in some deep counts, some bad counts. "
Chacin bounced back, retiring Scutaro, Sandoval and Posey in a one-two-three fifth, then came out after facing four batters that resulted in three hits and three runs in the sixth. Chacin left with one in, two on and the game tied 6-6, but Angel Pagan's single through the middle plated two more, giving the Giants a lead that would hold up.
"It was just a bad day for Chacin," Gonzalez said. "Chacin's a pitcher who always gives us a chance to win, but it didn't happen tonight. It was just a bad game. We'll just try to think about tomorrow."
Though the Rockies bats went silent, Arenado provided a late-inning highlight, diving into foul territory to glove a screaming grounder of the bat of Brett Pill, then jumping to his feet to fire a rocket to first and catch Pill to end the inning.
"He's quite a talent," Weiss said of the rookie, playing in his 17th big league game since joining the club near the end of April. "He swings the bat, his average doesn't jump out at you, but it could be 60 or 70 points higher. He's playing Gold Glove defense."
Still, the Rockies could find no defense against the Giants overcoming their biggest deficit since beating the Rockies 7-6 in September 2005 after also trailing 6-0.
"It's kind of weird, because they're a good team," Crawford said of Colorado. "They have good arms and a lot of good bats, obviously. To win 10 straight on them is a pretty good accomplishment for our team."
It's the kind of pattern that can stick in a team's head, looming large as a source of unfathomable futility. It's the longest skid for the Rockies against an opponent since their inaugural season in 1993, when Colorado was 0-13 against the Braves. Knowing how absolutes can mess with the mind, Weiss was determined to end the run and leave their history behind them.
"We got to be tougher than that," Weiss said. "We got to play better. We got to win games."