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SF@COL: CarGo breaks up no-hit attempt with a single

DENVER -- The competitive part of Monday night ended in the first inning, but at least Giants ace pitcher Tim Lincecum provided suspense.

Lincecum threatened for his first career no-hitter until Carlos Gonzalez bounced a single through the right side of the infield with one out in the seventh. That was about it for cheers for the Rockies, who managed three hits off Lincecum in 7 2/3 innings and lost, 8-1, on a chilly night at Coors Field.

"In that situation, obviously the guy is pitching really well and you want to ruin their night," Gonzalez said.

Well, ruining a night is a relative term. Lincecum (2-1) striking out 10 pretty much made it a bummer for the Rockies.

The three-game series was billed as a showdown between the defending World Series champion Giants and the Rockies, baseball's hottest team in the early going. But the Rockies, who are still 12-4, were having none of any talk of such a lopsided loss -- after an early schedule full of teams that didn't finish above .500 last year -- serving as any commentary on where they actually stand among baseball's best teams.

"I have respect for other teams we played before -- it wasn't like we were playing bad teams," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "The Cubs [against whom the Rockies took two of three over the weekend] have a good team. The Giants tonight were good, but I don't think they were way better than any of the teams we had played."

The Rockies can only hope for similar work Tuesday night from their ace, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who has not pitched since Opening Day because of a cut on his right thumb cuticle. Jimenez will pitch against the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez.

But Lincecum makes the Giants tough whenever he faces the Rockies. Monday marked the 13th time in 16 starts that he has held the Rockies to three or fewer runs. Coors Field seems a good place for him. Last Sept. 24, he held the Rockies to one run on two hits in eight innings of a key 2-1 victory. This time, Lincecum finished with 10 strikeouts against three walks.

It didn't hurt that the Giants jumped Rockies starter Esmil Rogers (2-1) for five first-inning runs, including a three-run Pat Burrell homer -- his fifth of the year -- and a third-deck solo shot from Nate Schierholtz. Rogers lasted just three innings and gave up eight runs on six hits, with a Freddy Sanchez second-inning homer adding to the pain.

"The guy that we were facing tonight, you certainly can't spot him eight runs and put him in a rocking chair that quickly and make his evening that much easier," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Rogers backed himself into bad counts and left too many pitches over the heart of the plate.

"When you are behind in the count against hitters like that, you have to pay for that," Rogers said.

Lincecum had some good defensive work behind him. First baseman Aubrey Huff made a deft pickup and tag on Jonathan Herrera's slow roller in the first, and second baseman Sanchez dove to stop a hard Gonzalez grounder at the end of the first. Beyond that, Lincecum dominated until Gonzalez's single in the seventh. Todd Helton doubled him home with two outs.

"I really wasn't thinking about it up until that inning," Lincecum said. "I was just trying to throw strikes."

"He's always good, but tonight was some of his best stuff that I've seen," Tulowitzki said. "Then he was getting up there at 95 after CarGo got that hit. It seemed like he humped it up a little bit. He's special."

Right-hander Clayton Mortensen, called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Colorado Springs, held the Giants to two hits over the final six innings, with one strikeout and two walks.

"The effort that he gave us tonight to preserve our bullpen will pay huge dividends over the course of the next five to seven days," Tracy said. "He was terrific."

Mortensen's Rockies debut was much like his Major League debut, for the Cardinals on June 29, 2009. He threw the last three innings of a 10-0 loss to the Giants, when Lincecum threw a two-hitter.

The Rockies had Mortensen, who had a 24.75 ERA in two starts while pitching in strong winds and bizarre, hitter-favorable conditions at Colorado Springs, just in case Rogers struggled or Jimenez is rusty.

The Rockies might have to make another move because of Mortensen's lengthy outing, although he would be happy to save the team the trouble.

"If they want to run me out there tomorrow, I'll be more than happy with it," Mortensen said.

The Rockies are expected to decide Tuesday whether to send third baseman Ian Stewart down to Colorado Springs for regular playing time. Stewart went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter to see his batting average drop to .077. He battled knee and hamstring injuries before the season and missed time with illness early in the regular season.

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