Rewind: Giants at Rockies, Game 2

The San Francisco Giants are a month into the 2006 season, but when they pulled into Coors Field for the weekend series, it already felt like a long series. The starters labored through their innings before arriving in Denver, and Friday night's disaster left the bullpen devastated in morale and in available arms. It was a forgotten pitcher and a missing superstar who got the team going Saturday night, with a little help from the usual suspects, to put together a win the team sorely needed.

Omar Vizquel must love playing in San Francisco. Everyone knows why he’s here, and he proved it by winning a Gold Glove at shortstop last season. But it is his happy bat that’s making headlines this season, with his .379 average. He said hello to Rockies starting pitcher Aaron Cook with a home run to lead off the game, hitting one out to right field where balls fly out on a good day. It turned into an even better day when Barry Bonds came up after a pair of groundouts. The man has been a shadow of himself, weighed down by all kinds of controversy and his own reputation, and for an at-bat, everything was forgotten. Number 709 landed in the seats in left field, and it has to be therapeutic to everyone who’s been waiting for it, to see Bonds regain his opposite field power stroke. Ray Durham joined the power party by bouncing a home run off the yellow stripe above the right field scoreboard in the third inning. With that, the Giants were out to a quick lead, a lead they would cling to all night.

One thing about Coors Field, as if there wasn’t enough to say about the place, is that in this yard, an error can turn into a big inning. And Coors big innings aren’t just big, they’re huge. Depending on the side you’re on, it can be uplifting or dehumanizing. By Denver standards, the two runs the Giants got in the top of the fifth were meager. Two errors lead to runs for San Francisco. Steve Finley led off with a single, and advanced on Luis Gonzalez’s fielding error. What should have been a double play turned into a first and second situation on Moises Alou’s fielders choice. Gonzalez appeared to have the tag on Finley down, but he bobbled the ball badly, and all runners were called safe. Then Pedro’s Feliz’s infield dribbler took a bounce off Cook’s glove and he reached base without a throw. Lance Niekro followed with a base hit up the middle to bring in Finley, and Alou scored on Mike Matheny’s sacrifice fly to left.

Brad Hennessey made his second start of the year and pitched another good outing. If his newfound success is due to the demotion to AAA Fresno following spring training, there’s not a lot that can be done about it. The incumbents in the rotation are either pitching too well or are too important to the team, and cannot be moved. Hennessey probably doesn’t like his role of long-term stopgap, but he hasn’t let his status affect what he can do on the mound. The four earned runs on his record Saturday are deceptive; it’s Colorado and all runs came on home runs, a solo shot by Brad Hawpe to lead off the fourth inning, and a three-run home run by Matt Holliday in the fifth.

The second home run of the evening exacerbated a bad situation for Hennessey. He found himself in jams a few times in this game, but escaped with the lead still intact. The first inning got off to a bad start with Colorado leadoff man Cory Sullivan’s single. Clint Barmes got on base by way of the fielder’s choice, and Hennessey walked Hawpe and Eli Marrero after getting Holliday to pop out to right field. He then induced Jason Smith to ground out to second for the third out. The fifth inning problems started with a single by Miguel Ojeda, and after a strange strikeout call on Cook’s at-bat—it appeared he bunted foul for strike three, the ball hitting his bat twice on the way down—and Sullivan’s called third strike, Barmes singled and Holliday capitalized. Suddenly the ballgame was tight, and close leads often do not hold in the funhouse that is Coors Field.

Another scare threatened to tear down his plans for a win. An uncharacteristic fielding error by Vizquel and a fielder’s choice put two runners on in a hurry, and then Hennessey walked Gonzalez. That familiar feeling began to creep in, the one every pitcher feels when the lug nuts on the wheels feel a mite loose, but redemption came in a choppy hit that Hennessey snagged, and through the magic of Omar Vizquel the inning was over. Really, the 1-6-3 in the scorebook does not tell the whole story. Vizquel received the throw cleanly and tapped second base with his foot, and got the ball to Niekro at first. They needed a miracle, and their golden shortstop delivered.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the Giants bullpen holding the lead. Scott Munter pitched an uneventful eighth, even if he doesn’t look like the Munter of 2005. He hasn’t been as much of a problem as displaced closer Armando Benitez has been. He took his title back, with his usual baseball histrionics. It wouldn’t be a Benitez inning without giving his teammates and fans bleeding ulcers. Gonzalez laced a hit into the left field corner, then advanced to third on a groundout, and stayed there while the Rockies that followed failed to pick on a pitcher who is prime for the picking. The score stood 6-4 thanks to another Giants run the half-inning before, and Benitez needed to slam the door then and there. He ended the night by striking out Barmes, and it took a while to sink in that the Giants had in fact won. Player of the Game: With so many Giants contributing to this win, it’s hard to choose. One man who went without mention is Alou. He reached base four times and made a few outstanding catches, and his teammates know he’s playing through some pain. If Bonds hadn’t homered, it’d be Alou with the honor. The biggest story in the sport got another chapter as Bonds inched closer to the ghosts of baseball past. Bonds wins.

Notes: It’s all about Barry: With Saturday’s home run off Aaron Cook, Bonds has homered off 417 different pitchers. Even Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow…a nasty virus is spreading through the Denver clubhouse. It sent Rockies slugger Todd Helton to the hospital and benched Garrett Atkins for Saturday’s game. Let’s hope the Giants can make it out of Denver alive…speaking of nasty: Not everyone loves Omar Vizquel. Rockies reliever Jose Mesa has a bitter dislike for the shortstop, thanks to some less than savory things Vizquel wrote about him in a book he put out. He repaid Vizquel with a bean ball, right in the shoulder blade.

Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 23rd season of fandom and first where she's had the honor to write for the Giants on Love/hate mail can be sent to, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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