DENVER – It’s well past wearing on Bay Area native Troy Tulowitzki and the Colorado Rockies that they can’t seem to beat the Giants.
Now suddenly and surprisingly contending in the NL West, they entered this four-game series vowing to turn the momentum.
They did, for three innings Thursday night. Then the Giants turned it right back in an 8-6 victory at Coors Field.
For the first time in eight seasons, the Giants rallied from a six-run deficit to win. It marked their 10th consecutive victory over the Rockies, dating back to last season.
And Brandon Crawford proved to be the best Bay Area shortstop on the field, hitting a bases-clearing double that brought the Giants back and adding a tremendous barehanded play.
The Giants’ 6-9 hitters drove in all of their first six runs to nullify the three homers that Matt Cain surrendered in the first three innings. Then leadoff man Angel Pagan snuck a tiebreaking, two-run single through the middle in the sixth.
It was the biggest of the Giants’ 12 comeback wins this season. In fact, it was their largest since Sept. 23, 2005 – another instance when they erased a 6-0 deficit at Coors Field. (It wasn’t exactly a red-letter day in franchise history. Matt Kinney started that game, Ray Durham snapped an 0-for-23 with a tying, two-run single and J.T. Snow came off the disabled list in time to deliver a pinch hit that put them ahead.)
Starting pitching report
Entering this season, Matt Cain had allowed three or more home runs in just five of his 235 career starts, or 2.1 percent. This year, it’s happened thrice in his nine starts, or 33.3 percent.
First, Cain (3-2) negotiated a clean first inning -- something that had to come as a relief for Giants manager Bruce Bochy after those two Canadian doozies. But Todd Helton hit a sky-high two-run home run on an elevated slider that he managed to tuck just inside the pole in right field. Then rookie Nolan Arenado crushed Cain’s very next pitch – a fastball that ran back to the middle -- for a shot deep into the left field bleachers.
The biggest blow came in the third inning, when a walk and an infield single preceded a 2-0 mistake that Wilin Rosario tagged to right field for a three-run homer that gave the Rockies a 6-0 lead.
It was the 13th homer allowed by Cain – the most among National League pitchers. Last year, he didn’t serve up his 13th homer until July 21.
But the Giants didn’t have a long reliever at their disposal, and Cain has watched his teammates enough times to know they are capable of summoning the rain – especially in a place like Coors Field.
Cain settled down and held the Rockies in check after Rosario’s shot, retiring 13 of the final 15 batters he faced. He ended his night by striking out Josh Rutledge to start the seventh.
By letter, it wasn’t a quality start by a longshot. But in spirit, it was.
The Giants rotation ended the day with a 4.52 ERA. Only the Padres and Brewers are worse among the 15 NL clubs.
Jeremy Affeldt was flat-out nasty while retiring all six hitters he faced over a three-inning span. It’s no easy feat for a short reliever like Affeldt to get up and down twice.
Sergio Romo struck out the final two batters to record his 13th save.
At the plate
Hidden among the hideous pitching and defense in Toronto was an offense that didn’t do much with hittable pitches. In the early innings, it appeared the Giants would waste most of their tasty morsels by fouling them back to the screen.
But the bottom of the order delivered the hits they needed in a five-run fourth inning. Brandon Belt drew a bases-loaded walk to score the Giants’ first run, then Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin made his worst mistake of the game.
He threw many other pitches to more hittable locations than the curveball that Crawford hit to unload the bases. But it was way too good a pitch to make with a 2-2 count and Cain on deck.
That’s not to downplay Crawford’s fine piece of hitting. He kept his hands back and hit a line drive that split the outfielders in right-center. Cain followed with a single that scored Crawford to make it a 6-5 game.
The bottom of the order came through again in the sixth after Hunter Pence and Belt singled to put runners at the corners. Gregor Blanco lofted a fly ball to shallow center field and Pence sprinted home like he was a gunner on special teams, ready to deliver a hit. He slid at the last instant and Dexter Fowler’s throw was just far enough up the line for Rosario to have no chance.
The sacrifice fly tied it, and the Giants kept the line moving from there when Crawford singled. Cain sacrificed both runners into scoring position for Pagan, who wasn’t happy about two called strikes from reliever Adam Ottavino but managed to dribble an 0-2 pitch up the middle for a tiebreaking, two-run single.
Marco Scutaro also extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single in the fourth inning. He added another single in the sixth; he owns multiple hits in seven of his last eight games.
Crawford tried a couple barehand plays on the turf in Toronto with mixed results. But his effort in the sixth inning was splendor in the grass as he took away a hit from Charlie Blackmon.
Blackmon hit a jam-shot floater that bounced in the infield dirt as Crawford charged it. The shortstop made an athletic adjustment to the spinning ball and stopped abruptly, realizing his only play would be to use his right hand. He grabbed it and threw in one motion to nip the speedy Blackmon at first base.
Arenado showed why he’s the Rockies’ best answer at third base since Vinny Castilla. In addition to his home run, he made a full-extension dive down the line to snag Brett Pill’s hard shot, then fired an impressively strong throw across the diamond for the out.
The Rockies announced 33,128 paid, including a couple of very nice Giants fans who made the drive from Grand Island, Nebraska, for the series.
Yes, you’ll even find Giants fans in Grand Island, Nebraska.
The Giants continue their four-game series at Coors Field on Friday night. Madison Bumgarner (4-1, 2.18) takes the ball against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (4-3, 2.98). First pitch is scheduled for 5:40 p.m. PDT.