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SF@COL: Panda pulls the Giants even in the 9th

DENVER -- Monday represented a missed opportunity for the Giants. There's no other way to describe it.

They began their afternoon in promising fashion by defeating the Colorado Rockies in the completion of a game that was suspended May 22. San Francisco proceeded to build a five-run lead entering the sixth inning of the regularly scheduled game, but fell, 10-9, after a tumultuous ninth inning ended with Charlie Blackmon's two-out, tiebreaking RBI single off Sergio Romo.

A Giants victory in that second game would have strengthened their position atop the National League Wild Card race. Moreover, it would have left them one game behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the West division standings. Instead, the Giants shaved only a half-game from their division deficit and trail Los Angeles by two games.

Winning the division is infinitely preferable to qualifying for the postseason by securing a Wild Card berth. The latter means a one-game showdown with the other Wild Card entrant for the right to advance to the Division Series. By contrast, a division title offers the relative luxury of participating in a series.

"Obviously, you'd like the margin of error," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Anybody, any manager, would tell you the same thing. There's something to be said about winning your division."

The Giants performed as if they were intent on challenging the Dodgers. They scored four first-inning runs in the regularly scheduled game, three on Hunter Pence's 19th home run.

Then the inexorable forces of Coors Field overcame the Giants. Their 7-2 lead all but vanished in the sixth inning, when Colorado scored four runs and chased San Francisco starter Tim Hudson from the mound. One inning later, rookie Ben Paulsen delivered a two-run, pinch-hit homer that capped a three-run uprising against Jean Machi and gave the Rockies a 9-7 edge.

That disappeared as the Giants pulled even in the ninth against Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins (3-2). Joe Panik blooped a double over third base and scored on Buster Posey's third hit of the game, a single up the middle. A wild pitch advanced pinch-runner Juan Perez to second base, from where he scored on Pablo Sandoval's single.

Undaunted, the Rockies responded in their half of the inning. Michael McKenry began their winning rally off Romo (5-4) with a leadoff single and advanced to second base on Josh Rutledge's sacrifice bunt. After pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson fouled out, Rafael Ynoa mustered an infield single on a grounder that shortstop Brandon Crawford knocked down, temporarily preventing McKenry from scoring. Blackmon then poked his clean single into right field.

"You see so many of these types of games here," Bochy said.

That's why Hudson, who allowed six runs (five earned) and seven hits in five-plus innings, didn't allow himself to feel overconfident with a five-run lead.

"This is a crazy place to play sometimes, regardless of what the scores are throughout the game," Hudson said. "You have to keep pushing, keep trying to put runs on the board because crazy things happen here. It's a tough one to swallow; it felt like we had the game in hand. But weirder things have happened here."

Bochy lamented isolated events during various Rockies rallies. In Colorado's big sixth, pinch-hitter Matt McBride hit a grounder to Sandoval at third with runners at the corners and one out. Panik, playing second base, couldn't hold on to Sandoval's throw and was charged with an error.

"If we get an out or a double play on that, it's a different inning," Bochy said.

Then there was Blackmon's game-winning hit, which defied belief. Though Romo practically threw his pitch in the dirt, Blackmon somehow connected with it.

"Romo made some good pitches," Bochy said of the right-hander, who threw a scoreless eighth inning in the suspended game's resumption.

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