Rockies widen wild-card lead over Giants
August 24, 2009
DENVER – Ubaldo Jimenez had to pitch like an ace to beat Tim Lincecum, and that’s exactly what he did.
Jimenez threw eight strong innings, outdueling Lincecum, and Seth Smith hit a two-run homer in the seventh that carried the Colorado Rockies past the San Francisco Giants 4-2.
“We knew what we were getting into when we came to the park,” Smith said, referring to the pitching matchup. “We knew what it was going to be like and it lived up to its billing.”
Jimenez looked forward to facing Lincecum but didn’t worry about being compared to the 2008 NL Cy Young Award winner.
“I just leave that to everybody else,” Jimenez said. “I’m not thinking about if I deserve to be in Lincecum’s league. I know he’s one of the greatest pitchers.”
Held hitless by Lincecum for 5 1-3 innings, the Rockies rallied to move three games ahead of San Francisco in the NL wild-card race. Jimenez (12-9) won his sixth straight decision for Colorado, which has taken two of three in a four-games series that concludes Monday night at Coors Field.
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Lincecum (12-4) was working on a no-hit bid in the sixth when Todd Helton singled off the glove of shortstop Edgar Renteria. Brad Hawpe walked with two outs and Ian Stewart’s RBI single cut the Giants’ lead to 2-1.
Lincecum then walked Omar Quintanilla to start the seventh. After Jimenez’s sacrifice bunt, Smith hit a 1-0 changeup into the second deck in right to give Colorado a 3-2 lead.
“Balls do weird things here and a changeup was left up and cut right back into his bat,” Lincecum said. “He put a great swing on it.”
Smith said he was looking fastball but was able to stay back to hit the changeup.
“When I hit it I knew I got it,” he said.
Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save in 34 chances.
In the first five innings, Lincecum wasn’t always sharp, but he was effective. He walked three batters and hit another with a pitch but allowed only one runner as far as second base.
Early, his most troublesome inning was the second when he walked Hawpe and Chris Iannetta, but Quintanilla lined out to left to end the inning.
Lincecum allowed three runs and three hits in seven innings. He walked a season-high five and struck out seven.
“I was battling myself,” he said. “I was erratic and all over the place with the five walks and the hit batter. I just didn’t know what was going on out there. I had a hard time finding it, but I still managed to get through the first five all right.”
Jimenez was sharp throughout. His only hiccup came in the second when he gave up a leadoff single to Ryan Garko and one-out homer to Renteria that gave San Francisco a 2-0 lead.
“He made one mistake all game,” Iannetta said. “He battled, he pitched out of every situation he got in and he gave us a chance to win.”
The Giants threatened to tie it in the eighth when Eugenio Velez led off with a double and moved to third on Randy Winn’s groundout. Jimenez got Pablo Sandoval to ground sharply to Helton at first for the second out, then retired Bengie Molina on a fly to left to end the inning.
“We had the right guys up,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We get a leadoff double, we moved him over and had our 3-4 hitters and Jimenez made some good pitches.”
Jimenez gave up six hits, struck out nine and walked two. It was the third straight game he has pitched eight innings and the 22nd consecutive start he has gone at least six.
“I think we’d be hard pressed to come up with a name of somebody on someone else’s staff who’s done that,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “That’s pretty special.”
The Rockies got an insurance run in the eighth. They loaded the bases with one out against reliever Jeremy Affeldt and, after Sergio Romo struck out pinch-hitter Garrett Atkins, he hit Clint Barmes with a 1-0 pitch to force in Troy Tulowitzki.
NOTES: Colorado OF Carlos Gonzalez was not in the lineup after sustaining a cut on his left hand. The Rockies said Gonzalez hurt himself when he caught a steak knife as it fell off a plate while he was putting a dish in the kitchen sink at home after Saturday’s win. He needed one stitch to close the wound. Tracy said Gonzalez could be used as a pinch runner or defensive replacement Monday and could return to the lineup Tuesday or Wednesday. … The Rockies signed RHP Russ Ortiz to a minor league contract. … Giants 2B Freddy Sanchez (sore left shoulder) missed his sixth straight game and is doubtful for the series finale.
Athletics 9, Tigers 4
OAKLAND – The Detroit Tigers have managed to hold onto first place in the AL Central despite winning just eight of their last 23 road games. Manager Jim Leyland is hoping his offense wakes up before their road woes cost them.
Jack Cust homered twice and drove in four runs, Landon Powell hit a three-run homer and the Oakland Athletics beat the Tigers 9-4 on Sunday.
“We still didn’t do too much offensively,” Leyland said. “We didn’t put it in play very well. You can’t play that way in the middle of a pennant race. We made some mistakes. We missed a hit-and-run, we got picked off … you can’t do those things.”
Brett Tomko (3-2) allowed one run and three hits in six innings to improve to 2-0 with a sparkling 0.82 ERA since he was promoted from Triple-A Sacramento on Aug. 17. Tomko signed a minor league deal with Oakland after he was designated for assignment by the Yankees on July 21.
“I basically went from zero pitches to 90 pitches in 3 1/2 weeks,” Tomko said. “It was kind of an accelerated spring training for me. I went home and still worked out, played catch and threw bullpens. I was only curious about how my arm would react and it’s been OK.”
Cliff Pennington also homered and finished with two hits for the A’s.
Miguel Cabrera had three hits, including his 200th homer, and drove in two as the Tigers lost for the third time in five games. Curtis Granderson also connected and Marcus Thames added a pinch-hit RBI single.
“Right now I don’t feel good because we lost to a team we should have played better against,” Cabrera said. “I do feel good about getting the opportunity to play every day. I feel fortunate.”
Cabrera is the fifth player from Venezuela with at least 200 homers, joining Tony Armas, Bobby Abreu, teammate Magglio Ordonez and Andres Galarraga.
Rick Porcello (10-8) yielded five runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings for Detroit. The rookie right-hander was 1-0 with a 2.21 ERA in his four previous starts.
“He didn’t have a brutal game. He couldn’t keep the ball in the park,” Leyland said. “Other than Cust he did pretty good.”
The Tigers lost their 10th consecutive road series, last winning one June 8-11 at the Chicago White Sox.
“The offense has got to be better than its been but we’ve been talking about that for a while now,” Leyland said. “Maybe we don’t hit as good as I think we can. I’m beginning to wonder that maybe I got our hitting overrated. If you play good enough you win. If you don’t, you get beat. We haven’t played good enough on the road.”
Granderson led off the game with his 24th homer but Oakland responded with four in the third. Rajai Davis tied it with an RBI single. After Ryan Sweeney walked, Cust hit a three-run homer inside the foul pole down the right-field line.
“I ended up falling behind on him and ended up giving him a cookie over the plate,” Porcello said. “The ball sailed over the plate and he was ready for it. He turned on it and that was that.”
Cust led off the sixth with his 19th homer to make it 5-1.
“I feel a lot better since I found something in my swing,” Cust said. “Now I’m not thinking as much and not missing pitches I was missing for about a month.”
Thames singled home a run in the seventh and Cabrera added a two-run homer in the eighth as the Tigers pulled within one.
The A’s clinched it with four runs in the eighth, three on Powell’s drive and another on Pennington’s homer.
NOTES: The A’s are 11-10 in August after finishing the first four months with a losing record for the first time since 1993. … Cust has six career multihomer games. … Tomko’s career record is 98-101. … Granderson’s shot was his fourth leadoff homer of the season and the 21st of his career. … Porcello has an 8.71 ERA (10 runs in 10 1-3 innings) in Oakland. … The Tigers won six of their first eight series away from Detroit.