Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Rockies 1

Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Rockies 1
September 20, 2012, 5:12 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain does just fine in the pre-Autumn chill. He has a 0.00 postseason ERA to prove it.And theres nothing like a Panda hat to keep those ears warm.Cain and Pablo Sandoval combined to edge the Giants ever closer to their second NL West title in three years and the right to labor into those crisp nights of the postseason. Cain, looking every bit like a Game 1 starter, held the Rockies to a run on four hits in eight innings to claim his career-best 15th victory. And the Kung Fu Panda was jubilant after rediscovering his chop, ending a home run drought of more than two months with a three-run shot in the first inning.The Giants reduced their magic number to five with a 7-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park.Starting pitching reportA Giants starting pitcher has completed seven innings just three times in the teams last 24 games. Those outings belong to Cain, Cain and Cain.There remains internal consternation about the shape and performance of the Giants rotation, but Cain (15-5) is the least of anyones concerns. He scattered four walks and struck out eight while becoming the sixth NL pitcher to reach 15 victories.Already the author of a perfect game and the NLs starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, Cain appears primed for the postseason. He didnt allow a runner into scoring position until the fifth inning, when the Rockies reached on a pair of soft singles and scored a run on a sacrifice fly.Cain began to miss locations while walking Rockies leadoff man Dexter Fowler for the third time, and Josh Rutledge drew another free pass to load the bases. But Cain did not give in when Carlos Gonzalez fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches. The right-hander came back with another 2-2 change-up and Gonzalez rolled it over to second base to end the threat.Cain retired nine of his last 10 hitters to get through eight innings on 116 pitches.Bullpen reportIt was a rare night indeed. Giants manager Bruce Bochy used just one of his 14 relievers, as Jose Mijares pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning. George Kontos got warm. Everyone else had the night off, courtesy of Cain.The Giants played in two hours, 57 minutes.At the plateSandoval had gone 161 at-bats over more than two months since his last home run July 8. He broke the streak by hitting a pitch that nobody else couldve driven out of the park.Tyler Chatwood threw a 1-2 slider and yanked it further inside than catcher Wilin Rosario wanted it. But it wasnt in a safe place for Sandoval, who got his bat out in front on the ankle-high pitch and clanked it off the pole above the right field arcade.Sandoval gave a jolly flip of his bat as he rounded the bases, then descended the dugout to a smattering of high fives -- and a mirthful, mosh-pit style celebration with injured closer Brian Wilson.The three-run shot came after Angel Pagan singled and Marco Scutaro doubled for his 174th hit of the season, matching his career high.It was just the 23rd home run for the Giants in 74 games at AT&T Park and just the third in which more than one runner was on base. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence own the other two three-run shots this seasonChatwood had to be ready to throw his glove in the dirt and quit after Sandoval reached out while hitting a single on an outside change-up in the third. He singled again on a first-pitch slider from Adam Ottavino in the fifth. And then Sandoval, on a busted hit and run, stole his first base of the season. He took third when Rosarios throw went wide and bounded into center field.His third hit started another three-run rally. Hunter Pence singled on a spinning chopper that was as effective as a drop shot at the net, Brandon Belt hit an RBI double and Gregor Blanco served a two-strike, two-run single to right field.It was Blancos third hit of the game, too. He and Sandoval were 6-for-6 at that stage.In fieldCain did well at the plate while executing a sacrifice bunt. He reached on an infield single, too. But his hardest hit ball of the night was a rocket down the line that Rockies first baseman Tyler Colvin somehow snagged with a terrific diving effort.AttendanceThe Giants announced 41,292 paid on Polynesian Heritage Night. Who knew you could pull together a look with fleece and hula skirts?Up nextThe Giants complete a very profitable season series with the Colorado Rockies with the finale of a four-game set Thursday afternoon. Barry Zito (12-8, 4.21), who threw a shutout at Coors Field in his 2012 debut, will look to provide a solid bookend start against Colorado. Hell oppose left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who is making his season debut after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.

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