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Giants Sweep First Place Rockies at AT&T Park

The Giants’ first series sweep of the Colorado Rockies since August 2009 put them one game out of first place in the NL West and dramatically enhanced closer Brian Wilson’s 2011 pitching line.

Wilson came into Friday’s game with a 5.84 ERA, a 0-1 win-loss record, and 10 saves. He proceeded to get the win in each of the first two Rockies games, then picked up the save in game 3. From Friday to Sunday, Wilson’s ERA dived 1.14 points to 4.70 and his 11th save tied him with Florida’s Leo Nunez and Colorado’s Huston Street for the National League lead.

Giant starters also made a statement. In Friday’s 4-3 win, Matt Cain went 7 innings giving up 3 runs; Saturday’s 3-2 victory featured Madison Bumgarner’s 6 innings and 1 earned run; and in Sunday’s 3-0 capper Ryan Vogelsong finished the weekend sweep going 6.1 innings with no runs allowed. Over the three game set, Rockies starters and relievers tossed almost 100 more pitches than San Francisco’s staff– 486 to 390.

The Colorado Rockies came into the 2011 season as San Francisco’s biggest challengers, but the Giants can now start to claim some serious ownage having won 9 of the last 11 meetings between the two clubs.

Hitting the baseball and scoring runs continues to be a work in progress for the Giants this season– San Francisco only scored 10 runs in three games. Two of the Colorado games were 9th inning walk-off wins, but clutch hitting alone won’t take a division title. There will be a number of dramatic changes in the starting line-up over next several weeks, changes the front office hopes will jumpstart the sagging offense.

Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa should be joining the team this Tuesday when the Giants begin a three game home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Torres brings energy and power as the lead-off hitter, and his defense and speed in center field further solidifies the outfield with Cody Ross full time in right.

Mark DeRosa should be starting just about every day at third base until Pablo Sandoval returns in six weeks, which will provide a serious defensive upgrade at third. At the plate DeRosa’s bat is more than capable of creating what this team so desperately needs– runs.

Look for the Giants to also bring Brandon Belt up from Fresno very soon to take over in left field. Belt brings yet another major defensive upgrade on the field, and his left-handed power bat should help take the sting out of losing Sandoval until mid-June. Also coming back are power reliever Santiago Casilla and starter Barry Zito.

All of these changes will mean some number of players currently on the 25 man roster will be sent down to the minors or traded. Speedy outfielder Darren Ford has not produced at the plate, batting .222 since being called up, and his celebrated speed has produced a 3-3 SB/CS record; infielder Ryan Rohlinger is a likely candidate be sent to Fresno when DeRosa returns. The Giants also tossed Nate Schierholtz’s name out into the tradesphere and put him on display a lot over the past two weeks– we should find out soon if any teams are biting.

The Giants front office has two particularly difficult decisions looming with lefty Dan Runzler currently sporting a fat 6.19 ERA as Casilla’s return is around the corner, and Ryan Vogelsong (2-0) putting up some nice numbers as Barry Zito’s replacement in the rotation: 20.2 innings pitched, 17 strikeouts, 7 walks, and a 0.97 WHIP.

Brandon Belt, Barry Zito, Dan Runzler, Darren Ford, Ryan Vogelsong, Nate Schierholtz: stay tuned.