Giants get past Rockies in extras
Steve Holm rounded third and chugged toward home plate with an understandable urgency in his rusty stride. The Giants' seldom-used backup catcher had neither the leg strength nor the inclination to squat down for any more extra innings in a scoreless game on getaway day.
Holm also wanted to make sure Barry Zito's latest outstanding start wasn't entirely in vain for the surging San Francisco Giants.
Rich Aurilia drove in Holm with a 10th-inning single to end a pitching-dominated afternoon with the Giants' ninth victory in 12 games, 1-0 over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
The lone extra inning, which included rallies by both clubs, was a fitting cap to a series in which the Giants won two of three despite scoring just five runs. San Francisco has won each of its first five home series this season, but relied largely on pitching and defense to do it.
After Holm drew a leadoff walk from Manuel Corpas (0-3), who lost his job as Colorado's closer last week, Randy Winn sacrificed him to second. Aurilia's sharp single to left-center easily scored Holm, who finished his first game action of the season with a celebration.
"That's all I had," Holm said with a laugh. "Ten innings into it, the legs aren't the best."
Aurilia got the third game-ending hit of his 14-year career after Brandon Medders (1-1) stranded two Colorado runners earlier in the 10th. Although the Giants nearly wasted a beautiful effort by Zito, who pitched seven innings of two-hit ball, they scratched out another ugly win.
"I was fortunate he left a pitch over the plate for me to get the bat on," said Aurilia, who entered earlier in the 10th to play first base. "You can't be afraid to hit with two strikes in this game. I pride myself on that. It's actually something I work on in batting practice."
The Giants only got to the 10th because of Zito, who finally looks comfortable in San Francisco - albeit more than two years after he moved across the Bay from Oakland. The former AL Cy Young Award winner retired 15 straight batters and allowed just one runner to reach second base, but Jason Hammel matched Zito with six scoreless innings in his second start for the Rockies.
"I'm not worried about personal accolades or who gets the wins," Zito said. "It's not important for me. If it was, I'd probably be frustrated. I'm set on keeping my focus out there, regardless of what's going on. This year is all about not worrying about stats or whatever. It's about getting wins for the team."
Zito has been San Francisco fans' least favorite player while going 21-30 with a bloated ERA during the first two years of his $126 million contract. With that renewed focus, he has strung together three impressive outings with a 1.33 ERA in 20 1-3 innings in front of the home fans who once booed him - although his teammates have been absolutely no help in improving his 0-2 record.
"I think if you look back to the second half of last season you'll see that Barry has been sharp," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's got things in place. He still has that big sharp hook and a very good changeup. There weren't many opportunities for us against him. ... (If) you don't score any runs, I still have not found a way to win."
After Todd Helton's single, Zito retired every batter before Dexter Fowler doubled off the wall in the sixth. Zito overcame his sole lapse in control in the seventh, inducing a double-play grounder from Brad Hawpe.
Hammel, acquired by the Rockies last month from Tampa Bay, was only slightly less impressive in his second start for Colorado after making three appearances out of the bullpen. Although Hammel yielded one hit in each of his six innings, none of San Francisco's runners got to third base until the sixth, when Travis Ishikawa grounded weakly back to the mound with the bases loaded.
"I've worked a lot on the side building my arm strength," Hammel said. "Getting through some innings proves my arm strength is back. Throwing strikes is the key. It was a dogfight all the way around, and one run wins it."
Hurdle is losing patience with Corpas: "He has a month and a half of good pitching in his last 7 1/2 months in the big leagues. He needs to do better than that to stay in the big leagues." ... Holm was recalled last month to back up Bengie Molina. ... Colorado loaded the bases in the ninth without getting a hit off San Francisco closer Brian Wilson, but Troy Tulowitzki popped out.