Giants trim NL Wild Card lead to one
Three-run first, Rowand's homer help Sanchez get win
DENVER -- During key moments in the opener of a pivotal four-game series between the top two teams in the National League Wild Card race, boos rained Coors Field.The Giants can pat themselves on the back for eliciting such raucous responses as they downed the Rockies, 6-3, in front of 43,666. With the win, the Giants cut the Rockies' Wild Card lead to a single game. Unfortunately, they were unable to gain ground on the NL West-leading Dodgers as they narrowly escaped the Cubs, 2-1. The Giants continue to trail the Dodgers by 5 1/2 games while the Rockies are 4 1/2 off the pace. San Francisco is currently 5-3 in its 11-game road trip. "We're in the [Wild Card] race," left-hander Jonathan Sanchez said. "They are first and we're second. We want to get in their spot to be first. A win tonight is big for us." The first chorus of boos came in the fourth inning, and they were directed at center fielder Aaron Rowand. The Giants began the frame with a Nate Schierholtz walk. At the end of Schierholtz's at-bat, Rockies ace Aaron Cook motioned to the dugout with his glove, and after being checked by the team athletic trainer, he left the game with a sore right shoulder. Travis Ishikawa then reached on a fielding error and Rowand greeted reliever Josh Fogg by smacking his 88 mph fastball into the Rockies bullpen in right for a three-run home run, his 11th of the season, to give the Giants a 6-1 lead. The homer was the first of Rowand's three hits, and it was his third multi-hit game in his last five. A couple of innings later, the boo-birds returned when reliever Jeremy Affeldt came in and induced a 1-2-3 double play on Todd Helton to end a bases-loaded threat in the seventh as well as maintain the Giants' five-run lead. Affeldt leads the Majors in double plays induced by a reliever with 16, but he was just happy he forced Helton to roll over on a down-and-away 3-2 fastball. "When he hit it back to me, I'm going to say I was probably more overwhelmed with joy than anything else," Affeldt said. "That guy, I have a lot of respect for him as a hitter, as a man, as a player of the game. I'm glad I won that one." After the Rockies scored runs in the eighth and ninth to slice the Giants' lead down to three, closer Brian Wilson struck out pinch-hitter Omar Quintanilla swinging for the final out and the final chorus of boos in the game. Sanchez (6-10) picked up his fourth win in six decisions as he struck out eight and yielded an unearned run in five innings. He recorded a punch-out each inning. "If you look at it, he did not have fastball command," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He had slider command. That was the pitch he was throwing over the plate. He was striking us out with it." What also helped Sanchez was the three-spot the offense put up in the first inning. Those three runs were more than the team had scored in its last two games. They won 1-0 Wednesday but lost 2-1 in 10 innings Thursday. Bengie Molina started the Giants off in the first inning when he smacked Cook's down-and-away slider to right-center field for a ground-rule double, scoring Edgar Renteria. Schierholtz followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in Pablo Sandoval, and Molina gave the Giants a 3-0 lead when Ishikawa drove him home with an RBI single. "They can battle back, they can score runs with the best of them," Rowand said. "We got to try to get as many across as we can as early as we can and give our pitcher a chance to settle down a little bit." Manager Bruce Bochy added, "I think Bengie lightened the load on everybody with his big hit." The Rockies scored their first run in the bottom of the first when Helton looped a single to left and Dexter Fowler scored from second on Eugenio Velez's fielding error.
Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.