DENVER -- The anticipated theme of the Giants' series opener against the Colorado Rockies seemed familiar, with the reigning champion facing the talented upstart.That storyline was immediately replaced by the Giants' dominance. But ultimately, San Francisco's 8-1 triumph Monday proved to be all about Tim Lincecum, as is so often the case when he performs. Lincecum, who has met numerous standards of pitching excellence, approached another one by sustaining a no-hitter for 6 1/3 innings. Carlos Gonzalez's clean single to right field ended that drama. But Lincecum carried on, allowing Colorado's lone run and three hits in 7 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, San Francisco won its fifth game in six tries to trim the Rockies' National League West lead to three games and dent their image of invincibility. "They're a hot team coming into this series," Lincecum said. "Hopefully the fact that we're smacking the ball around well and pitching well will kind of make them a little bit more inferior to us, I guess." Virtually any ballclub can look subdued against Lincecum (2-1), who also struck out 10 Rockies. It was his 28th double-digit strikeout performance, tying him with Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson for the most in franchise history. "He's always good, but tonight was some of his best stuff that I've seen," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. Lincecum praised catcher Buster Posey's collaboration with him.
"I didn't shake him off at all," Lincecum said. "We were just sticking to the game plan of speed 'em up, slow 'em down, speed 'em up, slow 'em down."Gonzalez came the closest to managing a hit when he smacked a sharp grounder to the right side with two outs in the first inning. Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who also contributed offensively with a second-inning homer, dove to snare the ball and came up throwing to record the out at first base. Other mildly close calls occurred in the first inning, when Jonathan Herrera tapped a grounder to first base and nearly slid under Aubrey Huff's tag, and in the third, when shortstop Miguel Tejada caught a popup in left-center field that he, left fielder Pat Burrell and center fielder Aaron Rowand had trouble locating in the leaden sky. Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, had taken a no-hitter through six innings just once in his career: July 9, 2009, against San Diego. Hoping to further Lincecum's effort, manager Bruce Bochy bolstered the Giants' defense in the seventh inning by installing Brandon Belt at first base and Darren Ford in center field while moving Rowand to left. "I'd be lying if I didn't think [no-hitter]," Bochy said. "The stuff [Lincecum] was throwing, sure. At that point, we were getting superstitious and not saying anything." Lincecum entered the seventh inning having thrown just 70 pitches.
"I really wasn't thinking about it up until that inning," Lincecum said. "I was just trying to throw strikes."
Luck appeared to be on his side when Herrera connected solidly on a drive to right field that Nate Schierholtz caught in front of the warning track. Suddenly, batted balls weren't flying out of Coors Field. This seemed to bode well for Lincecum.Then Gonzalez rapped a 3-1 changeup, ending Lincecum's bid to become the 14th pitcher in franchise history to fashion a no-hitter. "I was just expecting that pitch," Gonzalez said. Still, the outcome remained lopsided. Bochy dismissed the notion that his defending World Series winners needed to assert themselves against the Rockies.
"It wasn't about sending a message or anything," he said. "It was about going out there and playing well."Players differed, however.
"It was certainly important for us to come in and set the tone," Burrell said.Referring to the deficit in the standings that the Giants would have faced had Colorado swept them in this series, Huff said, "It's tough to come back when you're behind seven [games]." Immediately, the imbalance was shocking as the Giants scored a season-high five runs in the first inning and roared to an 8-0 lead through three innings. Burrell and Schierholtz delivered back-to-back homers off Rockies starter Esmil Rogers (2-1) in the first inning, each bearing significant impact. Burrell's was a three-run drive with two outs.
"I haven't gotten a hit with anybody on base all year," said Burrell, who actually was 1-for-15 in those situations.Schierholtz reached the right-field upper deck, marking the 31st time a player had planted a ball in that area. He became the only Giant to earn this distinction besides Barry Bonds, who did it twice. It highlighted a three-hit evening for Schierholtz, who added a third-inning RBI single in his second start of the season. "It's not the easiest job in the world," Schierholtz said of his part-time status, "but you take whatever playing time you get and know your role." Even such a commanding lead can be tenuous at hitter-friendly Coors Field. But not with Lincecum on the mound.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.