DENVER – A September call-up, Noel Cuevas just wants to make an impact.
With one choked-up swing, he delivered in a most meaningful way – in the heat of a pennant race.
The rookie pinch-hitter bounced a go-ahead, two-run single through the middle in the eighth inning and the Colorado Rockies rallied to beat the San Francisco Giants 9-8 on Monday after squandering a five-run lead.
“He’s clutch, man,” Trevor Story said. “He’s not scared.”
This was just another wild game at Coors Field as the Rockies remain in the thick of the National League West chase. They entered the day a half-game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“You always have to grab on and hold on tight (at Coors Field),” said catcher Drew Butera, who was making his Rockies debut after being acquired from the Kansas City Royals last week. “Because anything can happen here.”
On an afternoon when Story hit two homers off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner and the Rockies seemed in command at 7-2 after five innings, they needed the rookie Cuevas to come through with that clutch hit.
Ian Desmond started the eighth with a single and pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta later lined a double off the wall in right. Then, Cuevas stepped into the moment.
He took a big first swing off reliever Tony Watson (4-6) and whiffed. So Cuevas decided to choke up on the bat and focus on going up the middle. It worked — a grounder through a drawn-in infield.
“No words for it,” said Cuevas, who was with the team earlier this season. “How much better can it get? It’s almost like a walk-off.”
Colorado had a 7-5 lead in eighth when Giants pinch-hitters Alen Hanson and Chris Shaw hit back-to-back homers off reliever Seunghwan Oh (6-3). Hanson tied the game at 7 on a two-run homer and three pitches later Shaw lined an 0-2 cutter from Oh over the fence in right for his first career homer.
“What a great comeback. It was a shame we couldn’t hold on,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We really came on strong at the end.”
Wade Davis struck out the side in the ninth for his 38th save.
It’s a pivotal stretch for Colorado, which started off 10 straight at home and all against NL West foes.
“To go down late and come back in the eighth, that was huge,” Story said. “Hopefully we can ride that momentum through the homestand.”
Colorado scored four times in the first off Bumgarner, who threw 35 pitches in facing nine hitters. DJ LeMahieu and Story each hit two-run homers in the inning.
Story added a three-run homer off Bumgarner in the fifth. The shortstop has a career-high 28 homers this season.
Gorkys Hernandez homered for the Giants, who’ve dropped 15 of 17 in Denver since 2017.
“These are the toughest ones to lose,” Hernandez said. “We came back after being so far down and we couldn’t get the win.”
TRAINER’S ROOMGiants: OF Steven Duggar will undergo surgery on his left shoulder Tuesday. ... INF Brandon Belt wasn’t in the starting lineup due to right knee soreness.
Rockies: LHP Mike Dunn is planning to have season-ending shoulder surgery. The reliever has been on the disabled list since July 7 with discomfort in the AC joint.
ROUGH OUTINGBumgarner gave up a season-high seven runs, six earned, over five innings. He surrendered three homers in a game for the seventh time in his career.
“My command wasn’t very good at all,” Bumgarner said. “My stuff wasn’t very good. My curveball felt pretty good, but everything else was left up. You have to be better. Especially here.”
PROGRESSRockies starter Tyler Anderson was in line for his first win since July 4 before the bullpen melted down. Still, this was progress. The left-hander hit an August slump in which he was 0-4 with an 11.39 ERA.
Anderson had seven days off between starts and his command appeared back in rhythm as he allowed three runs and struck out seven over 5 1/3 innings.
“He mixed speeds well,” Butera said. “He made some big pitches inside.”
UP NEXTGiants rookie RHP Dereck Rodriguez (6-2) has a 2.47 ERA heading into his start Tuesday against Colorado. He’s also holding hitters to a .207 average. Rockies RHP German Marquez (11-9, 4.11) is coming off a start in which he had 13 strikeouts.