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SF@COL: Bumgarner fans six over six solid innings

About all Madison Bumgarner and Juan Nicasio have in common is that they're both starting in Sunday's series finale inside AT&T Park as the Rockies go for the sweep of the first-place Giants.

Bumgarner is having a career year, earning a place in the Cy Young discussion. Meanwhile, Nicasio's recent struggles have prompted questions of whether or not a demotion is in his not-too-distant future.

Bumgarner has thrown at least seven innings in four consecutive starts, allowing just four earned runs on 17 hits in 29 innings during those outings. The 24-year-old's 2.67 ERA would be the lowest mark of his short-but-so-far-illustrious six-year career.

The left-hander has mostly flummoxed Colorado in 18 career starts against the Rockies, compiling an 8-6 record and 3.26 ERA.

Nicasio's last three starts haven't gone nearly as well as Bumgarner's; he's allowed 22 runs in 13 2/3 innings in that span. His most recent outing, against the Braves on Thursday, was particularly dreadful -- Nicasio was tagged for 10 earned runs on 11 hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.

What does he need to do differently?

"Just locate pitches -- when he's done that, he's been real good," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "I tend to say the same thing when it comes to pitching, but that's what it comes down to, getting strike one."

So, with injured starters set to return in the near future, is Nicasio on the verge of losing his rotation spot?

"We'll figure that stuff out when it happens. Everybody up here has to perform. We have to make decisions based on performance, but I'm not worried about that right now," Weiss said. "We still have a few weeks, it looks like, before those guys in the rotation start getting back and I'm sure many things will change between now and then."

Nicasio is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in six career starts against the Giants.

Giants: Opportunity arises for Adrianza, Arias
Brandon Hicks' recent struggles -- he's hitting .125 (8-for-64) in his last 22 games -- have relegated him to a temporary spot on the bench.

Hoping to ease Hicks' mind and fix his hitting mechanics, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday that he plans to rest the slumping second baseman for a couple of days, with the hope that Hicks tones down the pressure he's putting on himself. Hicks' eight homers have helped bolster the Giants' offense. But the right-handed batter has struck out in seven of his last 10 at-bats, increasing his team-high total to 70.

"He's probably fighting it and pressing," said Bochy, who noticed that Hicks was "pulling off the ball" when he swings. Bochy guessed that as he spoke before Saturday's 5-4 Giants loss, Hicks likely was in the batting cage, trying to fix his swing. But, Bochy added, "Sometimes less is more, as we say."

Hicks' rest means an opportunity for Ehire Adrianza and Joaquin Arias to see more playing time. Both have struggled (Adrianza is hitting .183, Arias .179) but the hope is one can contribute for the time being.

Adrianza got the start Saturday and went 1-for-3 to go along with an impressive leaping grab at second base that he parlayed into a double play. Arias grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance.

Rockies: Blackmon learning to pace himself
Leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon has never played more than 82 Major League games in a season. The Major League schedule, of course, is almost double that.

He is passing so far -- hitting .301 with career highs in home runs (12) and RBIs (44) in 67 games -- but he isn't even at the semester break of his first full year.

"The intensity at the big league level takes a lot more out of you than people think," Blackmon said. "I've played full seasons in the Minors, and there's no substitute for this kind of atmosphere and this kind of intensity. It's been at times a struggle to get my body to feel good."

Blackmon said he is still figuring out the role of rest, not only in health but also in production. Blackmon was hitting .402 as of April 27 before the inevitable tumble into baseball's constant search to keep hot streaks going and escape slumps. After going 0-for-11 without getting on base during a four-game stretch of the last homestand, Blackmon is 6-for-12 with three walks in his last three games.

Taking it easy, it turned out, helped.

"In the past, if things aren't going well, the answer was more -- more batting practice, more cage work, more defensive work," he said. "But now I'm starting to get to the point where if things aren't going well, most often it's because my body doesn't feel good. It's more rest. If I have an off-day or batting practice gets rained out, I find I have a little more energy and things I was worried about take care of themselves because my body feels better."

Worth noting
• Giants closer Sergio Romo has four blown saves this season. Three have come against the Rockies.

• Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes has hit two home runs this season. Both have been of the inside-the-park variety.

• Rockies catching coach and defensive coordinator Rene Lachemann was given Saturday off to attend services for former Major League pitcher and pitching coach Bob Welch, who passed away this week. Comments