Rockies-Giants: What to watch for

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Rockies-Giants: What to watch for

DENVER -- The last time the Giants began a season 0-4, it was Saturday, April 22 at Ebbets Field, Gil Hodges hit a home run off Jack Kramer, and New York Giants manager Leo Durocher probably unleashed some fiery rhetoric on his boys.

It's up to Barry Zito to keep the Giants from the same lousy start. The well compensated, much-scrutinized left-hander will make his 2012 debut against Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin as Colorado celebrates its home opener Monday afternoon at Coors Field.

At least Zito has some decent history against the Rockies. He is 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA and .208 opponent's average in 17 games (15 starts). He hasn't lost to them since September 25, 2008 -- a span of eight starts (10 appearances) without a losing decision.

The rest of the series offers a few interesting plot twists as well. Here are other matchups to watch in this three-game series at Coors Field, which includes a day off Tuesday:

Timmy time: Tim Lincecum (0-1, 8.44) will make his second start of the season Wednesday night (5:40 p.m. PDT) against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (1-0, 3.86), who was the Rockies' opening-day starter. Like the Giants, Colorado is using Tuesday's day off to skip a No.5 pitcher the first time through the rotation.

The Rockies traded late in the offseason for Guthrie, who had been anchoring the Baltimore Orioles' rotation but had become too expensive for their liking through salary arbitration.

Old vs. young: Thursday afternoon's pitching matchup pits 49-year-old Jamie Moyer against 22-year-old Madison Bumgarner, believed to be the largest age gap between two starting pitchers in major league history. Both Moyer and Bumgarner had rough starts to open the season.

But Moyer's soft stuff presents a challenge for the Giants; he went 12 up, 12 down in a spring training start at Salt River Fields in March. With Moyer's next victory, he will become the oldest pitcher in major league history to win a game.

Moyer also will be the first lefty starter the Giants will face this season. That could mean a start for Brett Pill at first base; the Giants did not look good against left-handers most of the spring.

First pitch is at 12:10 PDT.

How they fared last year: The Giants were 13-5 against Colorado last season (7-2 at home, 6-3 at Coors), the most victories over the Rockies in a single season. The Giants' six victories at Coors Field last year were their most since 2004.

The Giants have won eight of their last 10 against the Rockies and outscored them 54 to 27 over that stretch. They also lead the all-time series, 169-132.

Looking back: When the Giants blew a 6-0 lead and lost Sunday in Arizona, it was the first time they coughed up a lead of three or more runs and lost since Sept. 25, 2010 at Colorado. The Giants were 44-0 last year when holding a lead of three or more runs.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P