SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval homered from both sides of the plate and the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants reduced their magic number to clinch the division to four by beating the Colorado Rockies 9-2 on Thursday.
Buster Posey also connected for the Giants to back another strong start by Barry Zito (13-8) as San Francisco completed a four-game sweep.
Zito won his fifth straight decision and has done everything to earn himself a spot in the postseason rotation after being left off all three rounds for the 2010 World Series champions.
The second-place Dodgers were set for a night game at Washington, trailing by 9 1/2 games. San Francisco (87-63) moved a season-best 24 games above .500, its best since finishing the 2003 season 39 games over.
Colorado has lost six in a row.
Sandoval connected from both sides for the first time in his career. Batting right-handed, he hit the first pitch he saw from Jorge De La Rosa (0-1) into the left-field stands for a solo homer in the first inning.
Sandoval hit a three-run drive into the elevated right-field arcade in the fourth. It marked his fifth career multihomer game. His last came Sept. 18, 2011, also against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Posey — making an MVP bid and drawing chants of “M-V-P!” — followed Sandoval’s fourth-inning shot with his 23rd home run. The Giants homered in consecutive at-bats for the second time this season after departed Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Crawford did so April 11 at Colorado.
Marco Scutaro’s fourth-inning single gave him a career-best 175 hits and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He added an RBI single in the sixth and has hit safely in 42 of 51 games since joining the Giants from the Rockies on July 27.
Zito received more than enough support in the latest impressive start during his comeback year. The Giants won for the ninth straight time in one of his outings — and Zito’s 13 victories are his most with the Giants and most since a 16-win season in 2006 for Oakland.
The left-hander, who had been disappointing since receiving a $126 million, seven-year contract ahead of the 2007 season, walked off the mound to yet another standing ovation in the sixth. He raised his right hand and pointed to the sellout crowd of 41,157 in appreciation.
Zito struck out six and walked one in 5 2-3 innings, allowing two runs and a season-high 10 hits. He hasn’t lost since Aug. 2 against the Mets.
It was a short day for De La Rosa — but that might have been expected as he came off the 60-day disabled list. The left-hander returned to the mound for the first time since May 24, 2011, when he left an outing with elbow soreness and later underwent Tommy John surgery.
De La Rosa was tagged for five earned runs, six in all, and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings. De La Rosa and Jonathan Herrera each had RBI singles for Colorado.
Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez didn’t return to the outfield in the bottom of the second after grounding into an inning-ending double play in the first.
He played the entire game Wednesday — with two strikeouts and two groundouts — but was a late scratch Tuesday night with a tight left hamstring. He re-aggravated the leg injury during the game, the team said.
The Rockies were swept in a four-game series in San Francisco for the first time since July 17-20, 2003.
NOTES: Sandoval batted .500 (8 for 16) with seven RBIs and three homers during the series. … Randy Winn was the last Giants player to hit a home run from both sides of the plate, on Aug. 30, 2008, at Cincinnati. … Zito is 7-2 vs. the NL West and 12-3 when he pitches a scoreless first inning. … Giants manager Bruce Bochy planned to reach out to Reds skipper Dusty Baker, hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. … The Rockies cleared room on the 40-man roster for De La Rosa by transferring LHP Christian Friedrich to the 60-day DL. … Angel Pagan’s double in the third gave him 56 extra-base hits, most on the Giants. … The Giants improved to 7-11 in games going for a sweep. … San Francisco topped its win total of 86 from last year, improving to 13-5 in September.
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