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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rockies can't hold it for Jimenez, lose to Giants

Saturday, May 7, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO ? Ubaldo Jimenez delivered the kind of performance the Colorado Rockies have been waiting for, a strong outing that wasn't perfect but offered a glimmer of hope that the ace might soon be dominant again.

Now if they can only find a way to beat the San Francisco Giants, that lead in the NL West might feel a little safer.

Freddy Sanchez singled home the winning run off Felipe Paulino in the ninth inning, giving the Giants a 4-3 victory over the Rockies on Friday night and preventing Jimenez from earning his first victory this season.

"Ubaldo showed up tonight. That was his best start to date. His fastball command will continue to improve. He made some great pitches," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We didn't do anything to lose the game. They just came back and won it. They had some good luck in my opinion with some well-placed hits."

Timely, too.

Sanchez's line drive up the middle against Paulino (0-2) scored Cody Ross from second and sent the Giants pouring out of the dugout, delighting a roaring crowd that came to toast Willie Mays' 80th birthday on a chilly, breezy night along San Francisco Bay.

"Happy birthday, Willie!" Ross said. "This is your birthday present."

There won't be any Rockies celebrating anytime soon.

They lead the Giants in the division by three games, and the calendar has only just turned to May. San Francisco also took two of three at Colorado earlier this year, and has shown thus far it can still be the Rockies' thorn.

Nate Schierholtz tied it with a two-run double in the eighth in a gritty at-bat against Rafael Betancourt, setting the stage for some of that postseason magic from a year ago that's been missing this young season for the World Series champions.

Brian Wilson (1-1) pitched the ninth before Ross led off the bottom of the inning with a double down the right-field line. Then Paulino struck out Aaron Rowand before Sanchez capped San Francisco's comeback from a 3-0 deficit with another strong at-bat on a night full of them.

The Giants put the exclamation point on a night dedicated to the franchise's most famous star.

They honored Mays before the game with a video tribute that included everyone from Hank Aaron to former President Bill Clinton and singer Tony Bennett. A congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama also was read and several of the Hall of Famer's former teammates were alongside him in the infield for the celebration.

Colorado nearly crashed the party.

Troy Tulowitzki started things off for the Rockies with his 100th career home run in the second inning, a solo shot off Matt Cain. Jonathan Herrera had an RBI single and Carlos Gonzalez added a sacrifice fly in the third to give Colorado a 3-0 lead.

The lead appeared to be enough, with Jimenez back to throwing a wicked breaking ball that was at times dominant. Yet he was still puzzling other times, walking five, and departed after throwing 118 pitches in six innings.

Jimenez, whose only run allowed came on a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey in the sixth, has been searching for his command after spending time on the disabled list with a cracked cuticle on his pitching thumb. And while his performance showed promise for the Rockies ace, the inconsistency was a reminder he still isn't back to his form from a year ago — when he was 15-1 by the time he took the mound as the National League starter for the All-Star game.

"I was more confident and felt more comfortable," Jimenez said. "I felt like I was more consistent with my delivery."

His bullpen just couldn't hold the lead.

Posey singled and Pat Burrell later doubled with two outs off Betancourt in the eighth. Schierholtz knocked a double down the line past diving third baseman Ian Stewart that tied it 3-all, giving the Giants a chance to deliver a win on a night that was special for so many other reasons.

"It was nice to see Willie out there with his friends," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "And it's nice to hand him a birthday present."

NOTES: The Rockies are planning to start RHP Clayton Mortensen on Saturday in place of Esmil Rogers, Tracy said. Rogers is dealing with lateral discomfort and could miss more than one start. The team will announce a move before Saturday's game to clear space for Mortensen. ... Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval (broken bone in right wrist) said he will have his hard cast removed next week and replaced with a removable cast. He is optimistic he will be back in the lineup on schedule within six weeks.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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