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Rockies earn rare series win over Giants

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The San Francisco Giants completed a memorably bad road trip Sunday with another shaky outing from a starting pitcher.

This time, it was Barry Zito, whom the Colorado Rockies knocked out in the sixth on their way to a 5-0 victory.

Juan Nicasio, trying to keep his place in the Rockies' rotation, had his best start of the season, giving up three singles in six innings. The Giants finished with five singles and got just four runners to second base.

Colorado won the final three games of the four-game series and sent the World Series champion Giants back to San Francisco after a 1-5 road trip that began in Toronto.

"It's up to us to get home and start playing better ball," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Overall we just had a horrible trip."

The Giants were outscored 52-28 on the trip, and their starters went 1-5 with a 9.82 ERA. The longest starts in that span were 5 2/3 innings, both by Zito, in the first game of the trip and again Sunday.

"It's a great starting rotation. They've done some remarkable things for us," Bochy said, referring to the two World Series the Giants have won in the past three years. "But at the same time, it's a new year. We've got to make some adjustments. These are things we're talking about."

Zito dealt with a lot of traffic on the bases at Coors Field, giving up 11 hits -- one double and 10 singles, three of them infield hits -- and two walks. He allowed one run in the first and two in the fifth. Two more were charged to him in the sixth. Zito gave up consecutive two-out singles, and Troy Tulowitzki drove in both runners with a bases-loaded single off Jose Mijares.

"I don't think he had his good stuff and sharp command," Bochy said of Zito, "but he battled well out there, particularly in this ballpark. Unfortunately we gave up a couple of his runs."

Nicasio entered the game averaging 18.4 pitches per inning. That lack of economy is why he had pitched six innings in just two of his previous eight starts and seemed to be headed for a stint at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

However, working with veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba for the first time this season, Nicasio was more efficient and found a groove that had been elusive. He got 11 outs on ground balls and five strikeouts, the biggest to end the sixth when Brandon Belt flailed at a 3-2 slider in the dirt with runners at second and third.

That was Nicasio's 89th and last pitch. It came after a single by Brandon Crawford, an error by second baseman Josh Rutledge on a ball hit by Hunter Pence, plus a Pence stolen base. The Giants were sensing they could erase some of their 3-0 deficit.

"You're hoping to get a big hit there, kind of get you in the game, get the life going again," Bochy said. "He made a good pitch there."

Before the pitch, Torrealba visited the mound, told Nicasio he needed to pick up Rutledge and said, "'I just want a 3-2 slider. I won't put any signs (down). Just go ahead and throw it down. If we walk him, we get the next guy.' He was able to throw it down like I wanted. It was huge."

Nicasio, who never shook off Torrealba during the game, said he was expecting to throw a sinker down and away to the left-handed-hitting Belt until Torrealba said otherwise.

"Basically we were using a lot of fastballs," Torrealba said. "I thought he might be looking for a fastball down and away. I just wanted a 3-2 slider right here."

Torrealba said the key for Nicasio was to "pound the strike zone with his fastball. If he stays downhill and with a good plane downhill, he's going to get a lot of outs like he did today."

Carlos Gonzalez had a RBI single in the first inning and a run-scoring double in the fifth. Jordan Pacheco drove home Gonzalez with a fifth-inning single.

The Rockies had lost 10 straight games to the Giants before winning Friday. The Giants had been 9-0-1 in series with the Rockies and had not lost a three- or four-game series to them since dropping a four-game set at Coors Field from Aug. 21-24, 2009.

At that time, Nicasio was pitching at the low Class A level. He reached the majors in 2011, but in his 13th start with the Rockies, Nicasio was struck on the right temple with a line drive and suffered a broken neck and a fractured skull. He made the Opening Day roster last year, but in his 13th start, he suffered a knee injury that required season-ending surgery.

"The things he's gone through the last two years, you need a breakthrough game, and maybe this is it," pitching coach Jim Wright said. "He transferred what he'd been doing in the bullpen for a month into a game."

NOTES: Rockies CF Dexter Fowler went 4-for-5, tying his career high with his third four-hit game, his first since May 28, 2012. ... Giants CF Angel Pagan did not take the field in the bottom of the fifth. Bochy said Pagan felt lightheaded before the game before the game and received an IV solution, but "it caught up with during the game." ... Giants C Buster Posey and 2B Marco Scutaro did not play. Bochy said both players needed a break, citing the long games here that Posey has caught and the need for Scutaro to rest his sore back and legs. Bochy said he told each player a couple days ago of his plans for Sunday. Scutaro has hit safely in 17 straight games, three shy of the career-best hitting streak he had last year. ... DJ LeMahieu started at third base for the Rockies. 3B Nolan Arenado had started 19 straight games dating from his big-league debut April 28. Arenado flied out as a sixth-inning pinch hitter. ...In an extended spring training game against Milwaukee on Saturday, Rockies RHP Roy Oswalt gave up a leadoff bunt single and no other hits while throwing five innings with nine strikeouts and no walks on 68 pitches. On Friday, Oswalt will begin a run of five starts through June 14 for Double-A Tulsa.
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