SAN FRANCISCO -- A healthy Tim Lincecum was dangerous to the Rockies and their lead in the National League Wild Card standings Monday night. After having his last start postponed because of back spasms, Lincecum struck out 11 and yielded one run and six hits in seven innings of a 9-1 Giants victory at AT&T Park in the opener of a key three-game set. The Rockies saw their lead over the Giants shrink to 3 1/2 games. Rockies manager Jim Tracy wanted to jump-start an offense that managed just nine runs in dropping two of three against the Padres to start this nine-game, 10-day road trip, the last extended road swing of the season.
Leading off with Eric Young Jr., who played second instead of the slumping Clint Barmes, paid off with Young going 1-for-3 with a walk against Lincecum. No. 2 hitter Carlos Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with a triple and Todd Helton walked twice. But the idea of moving Seth Smith to fifth didn't exactly pay off. Lincecum held cleanup man Troy Tulowitzki and Smith to 1-for-7 with three strikeouts. Part of it was Lincecum being on his game. His changeup was a backbreaker for Rockies hitters. But the Rockies haven't done much offensively lately against anyone. Even during a 9-1 homestand, there were four victories in which the Rockies couldn't manage more than four runs at Coors Field. "Offensively, we can do better than we're doing, it's that simple," Tracy said. "A guy like tonight is going to strike you out. But 13 strikeouts yesterday [against the Padres] is unacceptable. "We're still in a very good position, but we need to get busy here." Third baseman Ian Stewart, who said Lincecum mixed pitches better than at any point this season, said the Rockies' best offensive move is "to not have Lincecum throw." The Rockies enter Tuesday in much the same position as the Giants on Monday. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (13-10), who has become the Rockies' ace with Aaron Cook out with a sore right shoulder and Jason Marquis not nearly as consistent as he was in the first half, will pitch with extra rest. Jimenez suffered a slight strain of the left hamstring during his last start, on Labor Day against the Reds, and was pushed back from Saturday to Tuesday. "We'll be all right," Stewart said. "We're still the team being chased right now. We feel good about where we're at, but in another sense we definitely feel like we need to win tomorrow." Any victory over the Giants would be welcome. The Rockies are 1-6 against them at AT&T Park, with losses in the last five. "I hope it puts something on their minds, because that's what you play for," said Giants catcher Bengie Molina, who figured prominently in his team's offense. "You play to win and that would be to your advantage the next day. But not many teams get rattled by a first-game win like that. They come back and fight hard." The Giants loaded the bases with no outs in the second against Rockies starter Jason Hammel (8-8). Two of the three singles were soft, and one, Molina's seeing-eye bloop, was lamentable. Aaron Rowand delivered a two-run single and Eugenio Velez added a sacrifice fly. Molina homered with two down in the third. Hammel gave up the four runs on six hits, with one walk and five strikeouts. "There was a fly ball that was up there for quite a while, and the inning unraveled into a three-run inning," Tracy said. "I'm not so sure if that ball had been caught we might've been in the sixth or seventh inning with a 1-0 game." Hammel entered the game with four straight no-decisions, but the Rockies won three of them. The three-run second meant Hammel wouldn't be smiling at the end of Monday's game. "I had good stuff tonight," Hammel said. "First and foremost, Lincecum was throwing well. If you spot him four runs, he's probably going to come home with it." Lincecum forced Hammel to pop out with two on in the third, fanned Smith to end the third with two aboard and struck out Stewart with two on and two out in the sixth. Gonzalez, however, tripled with two out in the seventh and scored on Lincecum's wild pitch. Velez knocked a three-run triple in the Giants' five-run eighth.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.