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Cain, Sandoval lead Giants past Rockies

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POSTED September 19, 2012 9:22 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Matt Cain pitched eight solid innings to earn his career-best 15th win, Pablo Sandoval homered for his first time in two months and the San Francisco Giants moved another game closer to clinching the NL West title with a 7-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

Sandoval's three-run shot in the first inning off Tyler Chatwood (4-5) was his ninth homer of the season and helped hand Cain (15-5) another milestone in a season full of them. With the second-place Dodgers splitting a doubleheader in Washington, San Francisco (86-63) lowered its magic number to clinch the division to five.

Cain allowed four hits, struck out eight and walked four. Chris Nelson scored Colorado's only run on D.J. LeMahieu's flyout in the fifth.

Gregor Blanco added three singles and two RBIs, and Jose Mijares pitched a perfect ninth to give San Francisco its third straight win and seventh in the last eight games.

Chatwood allowed eight hits and three runs in four innings, extending his winless streak to four straight starts as the Rockies dropped their fifth straight.

Even seemingly unhittable pitches for Colorado these days are proving otherwise.

Sandoval reached in front of the plate to dig out an 0-2 slider near his ankles, pulling it off the right-field foul pole to give the Giants a 3-0 lead in the first inning. The switch-hitting Sandoval had gone 161 at-bats since his last home run July 8 against Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett.

In the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park, the home run was just the 24th at home for the Giants this year, which has frustrated hitters but also played into San Francisco's strength.

Cain controlled Colorado's depleted lineup in his typical solid and steady style.

The only hits the hard-throwing righty allowed over the first 15 batters were singles by Nelson. And Cain wriggled out of his only jam when he got Carlos Gonzalez to ground out to second with the bases loaded for the final out of the fifth.

Cain, often the hard-luck loser for most of his San Francisco career, went 14-8 in 2009 and has won at least 12 games in four of his eight seasons. The National League All-Star game starter improved to 14-0 this season when the Giants score at least three runs.

Brandon Belt hit an RBI double and Blanco had a two-run single in the fifth to extend San Francisco's lead to 6-1. Blanco also stole his 23rd base after he singled in the fourth.

Buster Posey's bloop single in the sixth drove in another run and fans again showered the All-Star catcher with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" He finished 2 for 4.

NOTES: Cain is 28-5 when he throws at least eight innings. ... The Giants honored the runner-up U.S. Little League World Series team from Petaluma in Northern California during a pregame ceremony. Giants players also met with the team and signed autographs. ... Colorado's Jordan Pacheco had the day off because he will start at catcher in the early afternoon game Thursday. ... Jorge De La Rosa will make his first start for the Rockies since Tommy John elbow surgery last year when he faces fellow lefty Barry Zito (12-8, 4.21 ERA) in the series finale Thursday.

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