(Sports Network) - A recent winning streak has given the Colorado Rockies some renewed hope in the National League's playoff race, while the San Francisco Giants have made a strong case for a postseason berth with a fantastic month- long stretch.
The two NL West inhabitants will attempt to continue their excellent play as of late in tonight's opener of a two-game series from Coors Field.
San Francisco enters this brief but important set having won nine of its last 11 contests to claim the lead in the NL Wild Card standings, and the surge has moved the team within two games of San Diego for the West's top spot. The Giants currently hold a two-game edge on St. Louis for the Wild Card.
The Giants maintained their winning ways by coming through with a three-game home sweep of rival Los Angeles over the weekend, capped by Sunday's 2-0 triumph.
Matt Cain (9-8) yielded just four hits and a walk over the first 7 2/3 innings to pick up an elusive first career win against the Dodgers, with closer Brian Wilson finishing off the shutout with a hitless ninth to record his 31st save.
"We've been playing these guys so much, we've all played against each other for awhile," said Cain, who had been 0-8 in 14 previous starts versus Los Angeles. "It's always great to be able to take three from those guys."
Edgar Renteria knocked in the game's only runs with a triple off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the sixth. The hit was one of only six by the Giants for the night.
San Francisco has now compiled a stellar 20-5 record since June 5 and has been terrific on the road as well during that stretch, having prevailed in 12 of its last 14 tests as the guest.
The Giants are just 2-8 over their last 10 visits to Coors Field, though, and lost three of four bouts to the Rockies in Denver to begin July. Colorado has taken six of the 10 overall meetings in the season series as well.
The Rockies lost significant ground in the playoff chase due to an ill-timed eight-game losing streak from July 21-28, but the 2009 postseason participants have bounced back by winning four in a row. Colorado still has a considerable gap to make up, however, as Jim Tracy's squad presently trails the Giants by 5 1/2 games for the Wild Card and is 7 1/2 back of the front-running Padres in the West.
"Right now we're really good and hopefully we can continue it," said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. "Big two games against the Giants coming up, and hopefully we can take them and get back into the thick of things."
Colorado got back on track with a three-game sweep of visiting Chicago this past weekend at Coors Field, highlighted by a 17-2 rout on Friday in which the Rockies scored a team-record 12 runs in the eighth inning. The team then came through with a pair of one-run decisions, including an 8-7 verdict in Sunday's finale in which Colorado nearly squandered a huge early lead.
The Rockies built a seemingly-comfortable 8-1 advantage after five innings, but the Cubs scored twice in the top of the seventh and once more in the eighth before putting together a huge rally in the ninth. Marlon Byrd smacked a two-run triple off Colorado closer Huston Street to bring Chicago within 8-6 with one out in the frame, then crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to one. Street would strike out Jeff Baker, however, to end both the threat and the game.
Tulowitzki knocked in two runs in Sunday's win and Dexter Fowler went 2-for-4 with an RBI single for Colorado. However, the young outfielder injured his ribs running into the wall to make a catch in the ninth inning and is unlikely to be available tonight.
Jorge De La Rosa (4-3) worked the first 6 2/3 innings for Colorado and allowed three runs while striking out five to get the win.
The Rockies will be hoping for an improved showing out of Aaron Cook when the veteran hurler takes the mound for tonight's opener. The right-hander has been tagged for 10 runs and 15 hits over a combined 6 2/3 innings in back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He lasted just 2 1/3 frames in Wednesday's defeat to the Pirates and surrendered five runs and six hits before making the early exit.
Cook did pitch well in a matchup with the Giants at Coors Field back on July 1, however, with the sinker specialist limiting tonight's opponent to three runs over 6 1/3 solid innings. He's usually performed well on the home hill to boot, having gone 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA in nine starts at Coors so far this year.
The 31-year-old was hung with a road loss to San Francisco on April 30 after permitting five runs in six innings and owns an 8-10 record with a 4.96 ERA in 27 lifetime games (22 starts) against the Giants.
Jonathan Sanchez gets the call for San Francisco this evening and will be out to better a shaky effort of his own in his last start. The hard-throwing lefty served up a pair of homers and five runs in a six-inning no-decision against Florida on Wednesday, although he did manage six strikeouts for the game.
Sanchez has delivered a good season overall to help the Giants into playoff contention, however, with the Puerto Rico native having posted a 7-6 mark and a 3.54 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) and averaging better than a strikeout per inning for the year.
The 27-year-old did not fare well in an encounter with the Rockies earlier this season, though, allowing three runs and walking five in 4 2/3 innings of a May 2 loss at AT&T Park. Sanchez is just 2-4 and carries a subpar 6.75 ERA in 16 lifetime games (nine starts) against Colorado, and sports a 6.25 career ERA at Coors Field as well.