The Rockies came into their three game series against the San Francisco Giants with the best record in the league.
And then the defending World Series Champions performed the baseball equivalent of telling the Rocks, "We don't give a shit."
Despite a lopsided 10-2 victory yesterday, the Rockies received a lesson in how the Giants' dominant pitching and early offense can put a stranglehold on games. Colorado still shares the best record in the league with the Cleveland Indians, but the Giants showed who remains the team to beat in the National League West.
Maybe the San Francisco-esque weather on Monday night should have been an omen. Before the Giants could accuse the Rockies of juicing baseballs, San Francisco jumped to a five-run lead in the first inning. Rockies starter Esmil Rodgers gave up eight runs before being pulled after three innings.
That was more than enough support for Tim Lincecum, who got an early start to his 4/20 celebration by tossing 6 1/3 hitless innings and fanning ten Rockies. The loudest cheer of the night came when Carlos Gonzalez finally shot a single through the right side of the infield. Todd Helton doubled Cargo home and for a minute the Rocks appeared to be a major league ball club. Lincecum would make it through 7 2/3 innings, yielding only three hits.
Tuesday was slightly more encouraging, with the return of ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who missed his previous two starts with a thumb cuticle injury. But this game would quickly feel like the previous night, as Jimenez gave up four runs in the first inning. Pablo Sandoval pounded a back-foot slider into the right field stands for a three-run home run and Jimenez needed 37 pitches to get through the inning.
He settled down after that, allowing just two singles and a walk through the next four innings, but the damage was done. Aubrey Huff put the nail in the coffin with a two-run homer in the seventh inning. The Rockies couldn't mount any sizable comeback off starter Jonathan Sanchez or the Giants' strong bullpen.
Through the first two games of the series, Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki were a combined 1-14. On top of that, the team was 1-11 with runners in scoring position, and was outscored 14-4 by a team with a mediocre offense. The Giants played their game, which is the game the Rockies aspire to play -- dominant pitching, solid defense and timely hitting. The Rockies accomplished this through the first fifteen games of the season against inferior competition.
Yesterday's game started like a recurring nightmare, when Aaron Rowand doubled on the first pitch of the game. But despite "holy shit, not again" murmurs that spread through the stadium, the Giants only put one run on the board in the first. Ty Wigginton answered and then some with a three-run homer in the bottom of the second inning.
Jorge De La Rosa spun sliders all day and surrendered only four hits and two runs. Tulowitzki and Seth Smith scored three runs each and went a combined 5-8. The Rocks chased starter Matt Cain after 4 1/3 innings for some belated vindication.
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Colorado has been a slow-starting team the past few seasons, so holding a share of the best record in baseball after three weeks is encouraging. But the measuring stick that is San Francisco will always be close by. This series was a reminder that the Giants do one thing -- pitching -- better than almost any team in the league. And that just happens to be the one aspect of the game that can carry a team to a World Series title.
So until the Rockies' pitching can compare to the Giants, a great April record will be just that -- and only that.
More from our Baseball archive: "Colorado Rockies: If they want to prove they're baseball's best, they've got to school the Giants."