SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have spent several weeks quietly turning to the same thought. Just get in. Anything can happen once you reach the postseason.
Thursday’s sixth inning was a reminder of how little it sometimes takes to grab a big game.
In a throwback to postseason rallies of the past, the Giants scored three runs on a series of bunts and errors and well-placed balls. The strange push came with plenty of help from the Rockies, but the Giants have gotten used to that late in the year. If you put enough pressure on an opponent, cracks will show. The Rockies crumbled and the Giants took advantage, winning 7-2 in a game they absolutely had to have.
The Giants, paced by a dominant return by Johnny Cueto, remained a game ahead of the Cardinals, who won earlier in the night on a controversial walk-off double. With three games to go they are one back of the Mets, who hold a tiebreaker for home field advantage in the wild card game.
Cueto’s first inning in nine days was a bizarre one. The Rockies went double, strikeout, double, strikeout, triple, strikeout to put up two runs in the first. Cueto, returning from a groin strain, worked in and out of traffic after that, and the lineup tied it up in the bottom of the fourth.
Jon Gray walked Buster Posey and then grooved a fastball that Hunter Pence smoked for a double. Brandon Crawford’s groundout scored one run and Joe Panik’s bloop to left tied the game.
The three-run rally in the sixth was straight out of Tim Flannery’s RTI (Runs Thrown In) playbook. Crawford lined a ball off Gray’s leg and went to second when the young pitcher threw it away. Angel Pagan followed with a bunt single. Panik hit a sharp grounder to first and Gerardo Parra tried to a backdoor throw to third. Crawford got back safely by a fingernail. Conor Gillaspie’s sacrifice fly brought the go-ahead run across and Pagan and Panik raced home when Nolan Arenado threw wide on Cueto’s bunt.
Cueto's pitch count was high early, but he managed to get through seven. He scattered nine hits and tied a season-high with 11 strikeouts.
Starting pitching report: Cueto’s first regular season as a Giant is likely in the books. His line: 219 2/3 innings, 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 198 strikeouts. He has been worth every penny.
Bullpen report: Bruce Bochy used Derek Law, Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland for one out apiece in the eighth.
At the plate: Cueto finished his season with six RBI, doubling his previous career-high.
In the field: Rockies ... yikes.
Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,275 human beings. It was either the 486th consecutive sellout or the second consecutive sellout, depending on your point of view.
Up next: Madison Bumgarner faces Rich Hill of the Dodgers. The Mets will play the Phillies and the Cardinals will play the Pirates.