DENVER -- Facing San Francisco's remarkable rotation is doubly difficult when the Giants are staked to a big, early lead like they've been the last two nights at Coors Field.
Jonathan Sanchez gave up two hits over 6 1/3 innings one night after Tim Lincecum flirted with a no-hitter and the Giants beat Colorado 6-3 Tuesday night, spoiling Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez's return from the disabled list.
San Francisco's offense, which spotted Lincecum a five-run first-inning cushion in an 8-1 win, gave Sanchez (2-1) a four-run lead to work with thanks to Pablo Sandoval's three-run homer before the lefty even stepped foot on the mound.
"It's great when you start the game 4-0," Sanchez said. "You can just go out there and pitch, throw the ball and see what happens."
Just as they did the night before, when Pat Burrell's three-run first-inning homer highlighted a 5-0 lead Lincecom had before he walked out to the mound.
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"It would be nice to not spot them four runs," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It's a tough uphill battle for us, especially with the pitchers that they have."
Aubrey Huff also went deep for the Giants, who go for the sweep Wednesday when Matt Cain faces Jorge De La Rosa after cutting their four-game deficit in the NL West in half by taking the first two games of the series.
"He didn't have that 98 mph fastball he had last year," Huff said of Jimenez. "Obviously, coming off the DL he's probably just feeling it out a little bit. Still had some great offspeed stuff tonight. Pablo jumped on him but he pitched well after that. After that first inning he kind of settled down."
Sanchez gave up three runs, two of them earned, on two hits over 6 1/3 innings, walking four and striking out four, stifling the heart of Colorado's batting order, which finished 0-for-12.
Sanchez allowed only one hit through the first six innings one night after Lincecum took a no-hitter into the seventh. Dexter Fowler led off the first with a double but the Rockies went hitless after that until Ty Wigginton singled with one out in the seventh, putting runners at first and second.
Ramon Ramirez replaced Sanchez and struck out Chris Iannetta before walking pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera to load the bases for Fowler, who doubled home two runs to make it 6-3. Ramirez then whiffed Ryan Spilborghs on three straight sliders to end the threat.
The Giants have won nine of 12 since starting out 1-4.
Jimenez (0-1) went on the DL after an awful season opener, the culprit a cut cuticle on his pitching thumb that prevented him from getting oomph on his heater and spin on his breaking pitches. The Rockies didn't slack off during their ace's absence, jumping out to a 12-4 start.
After being dominated by Lincecum, the Rockies said they were glad their own ace was back on the mound Tuesday night.
He was rusty, however, and once again the Rockies found themselves playing catch-up against a very good pitcher - Sanchez hasn't allowed more than three earned runs over his last 11 starts dating back to Aug. 30 of last season, forging a 1.75 ERA over that span.
Jimenez's second pitch plunked Aaron Rowand, who came around to score on Buster Posey's single before Sandoval deposited an 84 mph slider into the Rockies' bullpen in right-center for a three-run homer, his fifth.
Jimenez allowed just two more singles through five innings. He walked two and struck out six.
"My velocity was a little bit off. It's not like I'm going to come back throwing 100 mph right away," said Jimenez, whose fastball topped out at 94 mph but found better control when he dialed it back.
Jimenez was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth and Seth Smith's sacrifice fly scored Wigginton.
"Looked like he settled down after the first inning," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had good stuff, I thought Pablo hit a good pitch. Our guys fought hard that first inning, turns out to be the difference."
Huff's two-run homer off Jose Morales made it 6-1 in the seventh.
"It's an important game," Tulowitzki said of the series finale. "You don't want anyone coming in here and sweeping you. At the same time, it is April still."
- Rowand suffered a bruised left forearm when he was hit by Jimenez and left the game after three innings, replaced by Darren Ford. He's day-to-day.
- To make room for Jimenez, the Rockies sent 3B Ian Stewart, mired in a 2-for-26 start, down to Triple-A Colorado Springs to get more at-bats.