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08/23/09 8:13 PM ET

Giants can't cash in to gain ground

Lincecum loses despite taking no-hitter into sixth inning

DENVER -- Trailing by a run with one out and Eugenio Velez at third base in the eighth inning Sunday, Pablo Sandoval grounded weakly to first baseman Todd Helton on an infield that was playing halfway in trying to prevent the tying run to score. The second Helton touched first, Sandoval lowered his head knowing what he didn't do.

Bengie Molina followed, and when he made the contact with the ball, it sounded like it had the potential for extra bases if it didn't leave Coors Field. Instead, the ball fell into the glove of left fielder Ryan Spilborghs. As Molina saw Spilborghs make the catch, he placed both hands on his batting helmet in disbelief.

That was that Giants' last real opportunity to tie or even win the game as they lost to the Rockies, 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 48,704.

"We had the right guys up with Pablo and Bengie, and Bengie did all he could," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He hit that ball hard. When he first hit it, I thought it was going to get in the gap."

Sandoval added, referring to chasing Ubaldo Jimenez's 3-2 curveball out of the strike zone, "I didn't get the job done. I have to be more patient at home plate in that situation."

Before the pitch, Jimenez, catcher Chris Iannetta and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had a mound meeting and formulated a plan.

"Iannetta came to me and said you have to bounce this pitch," Jimenez recalled. "Molina on deck is a righty. We have first base open. We don't want to throw anything right in the middle of the plate.

"He's one of the most aggressive guys out there. Every time he swings, he makes contact. It doesn't matter where the pitch is. That's the way he is. He's aggressive, he chases everything, but he makes contact. He hits the ball real hard all the time."

The loss dropped the Giants to three games back of the Rockies in the National League Wild Card race. However, they have a chance to finish with a winning record on their 11-game road trip when they try to split the four-game set Monday.

After the game, Sandoval and shortstop Edgar Renteria laid down on the U-shaped sofa in the clubhouse for about 15 minutes, pondering what they could've done to win a crucial game.

"This is the biggest gap we've had between us two," Tim Lincecum said. "Tomorrow is a big game. We just scratch back what we can and hopefully they trip up and we can figure something out."

The defeat was especially painful for two reasons: They blew a lead for the second straight game and this time, it was a game Lincecum, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, was pitching in.

A night after blowing a 6-1 lead, Lincecum came out and threw 5 1/3 innings of no-hit ball without his best stuff. He walked three and hit a batter through the first five.

After retiring the first batter in the sixth, Helton hit a looping single off Renteria's glove and into center field to break up the no-hitter. Three batters later, Ian Stewart knocked an RBI single, scoring Helton, to slice the Giants' lead in half, 2-1. The Giants could've nailed Helton, who was at second, trying to score. Unfortunately, Ryan Garko cut off Nate Schierholtz's throw.

"It was a bang-bang play," Garko said. "I made a reaction and go. Once you make a decision, you can't look back."

Garko's cutoff proved to be pivotal because in the following inning, Lincecum lost the lead when Seth Smith drilled, according to Lincecum, a hanging changeup that cut into the right-field seats for the go-ahead two-run home run.

"I know sometimes that's what things do here," Lincecum said. "Balls do weird things, and the changeup was left up and it cut right back to his bat."

Lincecum (12-4) received his first loss since July 22 as he gave up three runs on three hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings. He threw 121 pitches. It marked the fourth time Lincecum has thrown more than 120 pitches this season.

"I don't know if he ever gets vulnerable," Stewart said. "We only had one run off him until Smitty hits that home run. That was probably rare to hit a home run off Lincecum. We're fortunate."

Jimenez (12-9) went toe-to-toe with Lincecum to earn his sixth straight win. He yielded two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts in eight innings and 119 pitches.

The Giants took a 2-0 lead in the second when Renteria smoked Jimenez's high fastball into the Rockies bullpen for a two-run homer. The blast snapped Renteria's 342-at-bat homerless drought.

Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.