Pitching with confidence and command, Jonathan Sanchez was on the brink of another win for the San Francisco Giants. It all slipped away after he fielded a sacrifice bunt and threw wildly to first base.
Sanchez's throwing error opened the door to a four-run eighth inning and the Colorado Rockies surged back into first place in the NL West with a 5-3 win Tuesday over the San Francisco Giants.
''He threw quality strikes and that was a big improvement for Johnny,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Sanchez. ''He was locked in, did a great job. He went out there in the eighth and made a couple of mistakes there. Worst case, you're hoping to get out of there with a tie, but he threw the ball away at first and it ended up killing us.''
Through seven innings, it appeared as though the Giants were going to get their sixth win in eight tries against the Rockies and leave town with a 1 1/2-game lead over their rivals.
Sanchez (3-3) allowed three hits and didn't walk a batter over the first seven innings but gave up back-to-back singles to Ryan Spilborghs and Chris Iannetta leading off the eighth, then threw away Alfredo Amezaga's sacrifice bunt, allowing Spilborghs to score from second base and pull Colorado to 3-2.
''It was an easy out at first,'' Sanchez said. ''I should have made that play. I think that's why we lost. Amezaga is pretty fast and I just wanted to make sure I got him out, and I threw it away.''
Javier Lopez relieved Sanchez and Dexter Fowler greeted him with an RBI double. One out later, Carlos Gonzalez, whose three-run homer off Tim Lincecum propelled Colorado past the Giants on Monday night, sent a fastball to right field to snap a 3-3 tie and make a winner of reliever Matt Belisle (4-2).
''I was trying to go down and in,'' Lopez said. ''I imagine it wasn't too well located, right in his swing path or something. Obviously, he's a good hitter and he hit it into right.''
Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 15 tries. He gave up a one-out single to Cody Ross but started a game-ending double play on Andres Torres' screaming comebacker.
Bochy said while the Giants played well in taking the early lead, he lamented lost scoring chances, including stranding Sanchez at third after the Giants pitcher led off the seventh with a double.
''We've got to get some guys clicking here. We need some production throughout the order, doing some little things, to add on,'' Bochy said. ''We're a better hitting club than this. It's frustrating. We can't live on the edge every game. We've got to take a little of the pressure off the pitchers.''
And the pitchers have to take some of the pressure off themselves by making fundamental defensive plays in the field, Bochy added, noting it was the Rockies' closer whose fielding began the game-ending double play.
The Giants manager suggested that he may give his club some additional fielding practice a la spring training.
''We need to tighten up defensively. We're beating ourselves,'' Bochy said. ''We're going to have to tune it up here, Once, you can deal with it. Twice, it's time to get to work. Three times, there's no question, we've got some work to do and we're going to have to get them out there, because that's too many times.''
With the two-game sweep, the Rockies moved a half game ahead of the Giants in the division, and they snapped a streak of nine straight losses in games started by ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched seven solid innings and did not figure in the decision.
''If the season ended today, I supposed we'd be panicked,'' Lopez said of the Giants dropping into second place in the division. ''But I mean, we've got three quarters (of the season) left, so I think we're OK.''
Notes: Giants IF Freddy Sanchez took the day off with swelling in his left knee that's bothered him for a couple of days. Manager Bruce Bochy said he's hoping Sanchez, whose .390 batting average at Coors Field is the second-highest among active players, can play against the Dodgers on Wednesday. ... Gonzalez's three-run shot Monday night snapped a streak of 12 straight solo homers by the Rockies, which had set a club record, according to STATS, LLC.