Giants-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The Colorado Rockies are happy to be back at Coors Field, and perhaps happier still to be facing Barry Zito once more.

Following a 10-game East Coast swing, the Rockies return home to host the San Francisco Giants on Monday night.

The Rockies (61-71) are a major league-best 14 games better at home than on the road. They won five of six on their last homestand, averaging 7.0 runs per while batting .325. Since then, they have scored 3.5 per game while batting .251 in their last 10 contests.

Dexter Fowler, a .211 hitter away from Coors Field, is among the major league leaders with a .313 batting average and 43 runs at home.

Nolan Arenado, whose batting average is 45 points higher at home, has proven invaluable for Colorado, playing all but one of its 108 games since being called up in late April. The third baseman started a key double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning before notching the go-ahead RBI double in the sixth inning of Colorado's 4-3 victory over Miami on Sunday.

"He had a huge game," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That's why it's tough to give Nolan a day off ever, you keep running him out there because he does stuff on defense to win you games."

The Rockies hope to further their momentum by again taking advantage Zito (4-9, 5.63 ERA).

He went 8-2 with a 2.47 ERA in his first 21 appearances against Colorado, and pitched seven innings in a 10-0 win April 10, but the Rockies have reached the left-hander for 13 runs and 29 hits in 17 innings over the last three matchups, winning two.

Carlos Gonzalez is 6 for 10 with two doubles and a home run this year versus Zito and a .378 lifetime hitter with two homers in this matchup. Fowler is 4 for 6 against him in 2013, raising his career average to .310 (9 for 29).

Zito has struggled keeping the ball in the park recently. After allowing four home runs in his first 79 innings, he has given up 12 over his last 41. Those issues continued in his return to the rotation Wednesday, yielding a home run and six runs overall in 3 2-3 innings of a 12-1 loss to Boston.

"Some strange stuff happened out there today," Zito said. "The nature of the game is so unpredictable. That's why we all love it and why we all hate it. You never know what you're going to get when you come to the yard."

Zito will be backed by a rejuvenated bullpen, which logged 4 2-3 scoreless innings Saturday and Sunday to give the Giants (58-72) a split of their four-game set versus the Pirates. Ryan Vogelsong helped his relievers' cause by scattering two hits in eight innings of a 4-0 win Sunday.

Pablo Sandoval highlighted a three-run eighth inning with his two-run triple. After going 3 for 37 through the first 10 games in August, he is batting .405 with 11 RBIs in 12 games since.

Sandoval, though, is just 2 for his last 20 at Coors Field and 1 for 9 overall against Rockies starter Juan Nicasio, who will face Zito for the third time this year. He did not get a decision in Colorado's 4-3 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday, yielding two runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings.

Nicasio (7-6, 4.79 ERA) beat Zito 5-0 on May 19 at home after limiting the Giants to three singles and one walk in six innings. Neither got a decision six days later at San Francisco, where Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt allowed a two-run walkoff homer to Angel Pagan in a 6-5, 10-inning defeat.

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