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08/30/09 10:46 PM ET
Giants slam their way to Wild Card tie
Renteria's homer propels three-game sweep of Rockies
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants concluded a week that put the "wild" in Wild Card with a fitting performance Sunday. Edgar Renteria's dramatic seventh-inning grand slam erased a three-run deficit, propelled San Francisco to a 9-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies and left the teams tied atop the National League Wild Card standings. The decision concluded a three-game series sweep for the Giants (72-59), who matched their 2008 victory total. San Francisco also completed a 5-1 homestand that followed three consecutive losses in last week's four-game set at Colorado. That series ended with a crushing 6-4, 14-inning defeat for the Giants that left them trailing the Rockies by four games in the Wild Card standings. By contrast, this series concluded with Giants partisans standing and chanting "sweep!" before the final out. Most of those folks doubtlessly left AT&T Park dreaming of postseason baseball. Making that fantasy a reality might require the Giants to improve upon their 16-12 August record during the season's final month. That will be a challenge, given San Francisco's September schedule that includes a six-game trip to Philadelphia and Milwaukee beginning Tuesday, home-and-home series against the NL West-leading Dodgers on back-to-back weekends and a three-game rematch against the Rockies at AT&T Park. "We have to keep the same emotion we have now," Renteria said. The resilience the Giants have displayed thus far bolsters their mood. Said right-hander Matt Cain, "It's fun, isn't it? You really can't count anybody out, especially when you're going to be playing those teams that are ahead of you." Rockies manager Jim Tracy graciously acknowledged the Giants' spunk. "We punched at them over in Denver, and they punched back, to their credit," Tracy said. "We did what we needed to do in this homestand," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I love the way that they bounced back and responded to a tough loss there in Colorado a tough series. We got down today and kept fighting." Pessimists probably believed that the Giants' pugnacity had ebbed after the sixth inning. Renteria's RBI double off the left-field wall trimmed Colorado's lead to 4-2, but Rockies reliever Franklin Morales struck out pinch-hitter Bengie Molina and Pablo Sandoval before coaxing pinch-hitter Ryan Garko's groundout to strand runners on second and third. The Rockies widened the difference to 5-2 in the seventh. But in the Giants' half of the inning, Morales walked Juan Uribe, yielded Aaron Rowand's single and hit Fred Lewis to load the bases with one out. The left-handed Morales struck out Eugenio Velez and was replaced by right-hander Rafael Betancourt with the right-handed-batting Renteria due up. Renteria foiled the strategy by lining a 1-0 fastball over the left-field wall for his eighth career grand slam and second off Betancourt. Tracy explained his move by citing Morales' pitch count (38) and Betancourt's effectiveness, reflected by his 1.46 ERA, since joining the Rockies in late July. For Tracy, these factors obscured Renteria's success against Betancourt (3-for-9 lifetime). Renteria wasn't dwelling on his previous triumphs against Betancourt. He simply wanted to do his job. "In that situation, you're just looking for something you can drive," Renteria said. "It could be a fastball, it can be a breaking ball or a slider. But you have to look for something on the inner half [of home plate]." Renteria, who delivered the winning hit in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for Florida, said "I always calm down" in clutch situations. But his sprint around the bases betrayed his excitement. Renteria noted that his sixth-inning hit on a slider from Rockies starter Jason Hammel helped his morale. "I said, 'Wow.' I've been trying to hit that slider like that," remarked Renteria, who has been playing with bruised shoulders -- both of them -- and a sore right elbow that will require surgery for bone chip removal after the season. Giants management has been criticized for the two-year, $18.5 million contract it gave Renteria before this season. For one afternoon, the jeers subsided. "It's the veterans that you lean on in big games," Bochy said. "He showed what he was about today." So did left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who struck out Garrett Atkins and Carlos Gonzalez to strand runners at the corners in the eighth inning and preserve San Francisco's one-run lead. The Giants pulled away with three eighth-inning runs, including two on pinch-hitter Ryan Rohlinger's single. All this sealed the Giants' fourth August rally from a deficit of three or more runs. "That's how you have a winning season. You need to have comebacks," Bochy said. "Once you have one or two, you get a little bit of confidence going."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.