(Sports Network) - While the San Francisco Giants try to hold onto a slim lead atop the National League West, the Colorado Rockies will attempt to make one last push at winning the division when these two clubs start up a big three-game series tonight from Coors Field.
The Giants moved back in front in the West following last night's 13-0 hammering of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, which gave Bruce Bochy's club a half-game advantage on San Diego for the top spot after the Padres fell to Cincinnati on Thursday.
After struggling to score runs for much of this month, San Francisco broke out the heavy lumber in its finale with the Cubs, amassing 19 hits and scoring nine times in a second inning that was highlighted by Juan Uribe's grand slam. The infielder had already belted a two-run homer earlier in the frame.
Uribe became the first Giants player to homer twice in an inning since Bengie Molina did so against the New York Mets on May 7, 2007.
"He's a guy that can do a lot of damage," said Bochy of Uribe. "It's nice to have a shortstop like that."
Buster Posey and Cody Ross also homered for San Francisco, which received four hits and an RBI out of Freddy Sanchez as well. Ross ended 3-for-5 on the night and Posey had two hits and two RBI to help the Giants avenge a 2-0 setback to Chicago on Wednesday.
Prior to last night's outburst, San Francisco had scored two runs or less in eight of its past 11 games and was shut out four times during that span.
Starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (6-6) also made a contribution at the plate to Thursday's rout, collecting two hits and scoring a run. The rookie was even better on the mound, scattering seven hits and striking out a career-high nine over seven shutout innings.
Colorado presently stands 3 1/2 games behind the Giants and trails Atlanta by the same margin for the lead in the NL Wild Card race. The Rockies vaulted themselves back into contention by winning 13 times in a 15-game stretch from Sept. 3-18, but have lost four in a row since.
The Rockies certainly didn't help their cause by being swept in three games by last-place Arizona prior to this big series, with the Diamondbacks holding on for a 10-9 triumph last night.
Arizona built an 8-2 lead after six innings before Carlos Gonzalez's grand slam in the top of the seventh brought the Rockies within striking distance. However, the Diamondbacks would get solo homers out of Stephen Drew and Chris Young in the seventh and eighth frames, respectively, to extend the margin to 10-6.
Those two homers would loom large, as Gonzalez delivered a two-run single in the top of the ninth and another run came home on Troy Tulowitzki's groundout to pull Colorado within 10-9. However, Arizona closer Juan Gutierrez struck out Melvin Mora with two men on to end the threat and the game.
The Rockies couldn't overcome a shaky outing from starter Jeff Francis (4-6), who was removed after only 3 2/3 innings after permitting three runs on six hits and walking three batters. Reliever Esmil Rogers didn't offer much help, surrendering four runs in the fifth in his lone inning of work.
"We didn't take the opportunities and we didn't hold them any time," Gonzalez said. "They kept scoring until the end, even until the eighth inning. I'm not trying to point any fingers, but if we want to make it to the playoffs we have to be a better team."
With just 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Rockies face a tough road in repeating last year's playoff trip. The task could become even more difficult with a matchup against Giants ace Tim Lincecum on tap for tonight.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award recipient has bounced back from an awful August to go 3-1 with a 2.36 earned run average in four September starts. The hard- throwing righty began that strong stretch with an excellent performance against the Rockies on Sept. 1, when he yielded one run and five hits while fanning nine batters over eight innings of work.
Lincecum went on to win his next two assignments before coming out on the short end of a 2-1 verdict to Milwaukee on Saturday, when he was touched for a pair of runs in five innings.
The 26-year-old had lost his previous two meetings with Colorado this season, including a July 2 setback at Coors Field in which he permitted four runs and nine hits over six innings. Lincecum is 6-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 14 all-time starts with the Rockies, and 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA in seven career Coors Field appearances.
Colorado counters with improving rookie Jhoulys Chacin, who's been pitching like a front-line starter during the past month. The talented youngster has amassed a 4-0 record with a sensational 0.95 ERA over his last six starts and allowed two runs or less on all but one of those occasions.
Chacin is coming off a gem in Dodger Stadium this past Saturday, when the native Venezuelan scattered nine hits and did not walk a batter through eight scoreless innings to best Los Angeles. He's also been tough on the Giants this year, winning both of his 2010 starts versus San Francisco and giving up a total of only three runs in 13 innings in doing so.
The 22-year-old outdueled Lincecum in a July 2 clash in Denver by limiting the Giants to three runs on five hits through six innings in a 6-3 Colorado win.
Colorado has won eight of 15 encounters with San Francisco so far in 2010, including four of six tests held at Coors Field. The Giants are just 3-9 in their last 12 visits to Denver.