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Giants held in check by Jimenez

Giants held in check by Jimenez

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DENVER -- It may have been a "cool" 80 degrees at game time Wednesday, but the Giants' two-game series with the Rockies highlighted the competitive pennant race heating up in the National League West, with the two teams trading lopsided victories that showcased each team's explosive lineup and quality starting pitching. The Giants came out on the short end of Wednesday's finale, falling, 6-1, to the Rockies and their ace, Ubaldo Jimenez.

"This is a tough place to play," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Everybody will tell you that that comes in here. It was great to get the first one. You want to get the second one, but we ran into a well-pitched game."

The game was well-pitched by the Rockies from start to finish, with Jimenez earning his 17th win to tie the franchise record for wins in a season and with Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt aiding in the effort in relief and handing the Giants 14 strikeouts and only five hits.

"We just didn't do anything offensively," Bochy said. "We faced one of the best pitchers in the game when he was on, and he pitched great."

After threatening in the first, the Rockies took the lead in the second when Chris Iannetta led off with a single to third off starter Madison Bumgarner and Jimenez followed with a two-out single to second. Ryan Spilborghs plated them both when he laced a double into the left-center gap, but Spilborghs was thrown out trying to advance to third to end the inning.

"It was right there," Bumgarner said of Jimenez's dribbler past him to keep the inning alive. "I was debating on whether to dive or not. It probably would have hit off the tip of the glove. It's a tough place for anybody to get. Not much you can do about it."

Colorado added a pair of runs on long balls in both the fifth and sixth frames, with Carlos Gonzalez drilling a towering two-run shot into the Giants bullpen in right-center in the fifth to drive Bumgarner (4-4) from the game. Gonzalez homered again off reliever Denny Bautista in the bottom of the sixth, and Troy Tulowitzki made it back-to-back jacks for the Rockies when he drove a Bautista fastball over the fence in dead center.

"It was hard for me to pick up the ball at the beginning of the game," Gonzalez said. "[Bumgarner] throws sidearmed sometimes, and it was lefty-lefty. But baseball's all about adjustments, and I made my adjustments in those at-bats."

Bumgarner got the best of Gonzalez in his first two at-bats, striking him out swinging both times. The Giants starter had no regrets about the slider that disappeared into his own bullpen in the fifth, sending him to the showers.

"That's the one pitch I felt pretty good about," Bumgarner said. "I threw it with conviction and felt like I had pretty good location. He's hot right now, and he's a good hitter. You have to tip your hat to him.

"Any time you give up a home run it's [tough], especially when you're behind. I was behind in the count a lot, which helped them out a lot, and the command wasn't there like it should have been. Chalk it up to a bad game."

Bumgarner lasted less than 5 1/3 innings for the first time as a Major League starter, and it was his shortest professional outing since an April 14 start with Triple-A Fresno. Bumgarner yielded four runs on nine hits and a walk, giving him back-to-back losses for the first time since losing to Colorado on July 1.

"I thought our guy pitched better than what the numbers show," Bochy said. "He had some tough luck there. Some balls fell in, a couple plays with some balls he couldn't quite come up with. Ran his count up there a little bit. It's a tough matchup when you're going against a guy with that stuff."

The Giants had their work cut out for them against Jimenez, the Major League wins leader at 17-2. Jimenez held the Giants to two hits through the first five innings, but Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey doubled the tally with a pair of back-to-back doubles in the top of the sixth, putting the Giants on the scoreboard.

Jimenez had nine of the Rockies pitching staff's 14 strikeouts on the day, the most he's fanned since his nine K's in San Francisco on May 31. The Giants hit him pretty hard the last time they faced him, in Colorado on July 3, touching Jimenez for seven runs on five hits and four walks.

"I think he had better command of everything today," Posey said. "Last start we faced him here, we were getting him in better hitter's counts. He was pounding the zone [today], getting the offspeed stuff over, too."

Posey left the game in the middle of the seventh following a sixth-inning foul ball off the bat of Spilborghs that hit him square on the front of the right shoulder.

"It was starting to stiffen up, and I didn't want to take any chances, so I pulled him out," Bochy said. "He could have gone back out, but it wasn't worth it, so I made the change."

Posey said he felt "fine" after the game, and he's not expected to miss any time.

The split series emphasized both NL West rivals' challenge to score runs consistently, with the Rockies blanked in the opener and the Giants held to a lone run in the finale. San Francisco fell to a game and a half behind San Diego, which plays the Dodgers on Wednesday night, but the Giants maintained a 2 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the Wild Card race, pending the Cardinals' game vs. Houston on Wednesday night.

"We are getting better in our division, which is a must," Bochy said. "Now we got our work cut out. We go to Atlanta, which is a very good club with very good pitching."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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