SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — It had been so long since Jim Tracy watched Jorge De La Rosa pitch, Colorado's manager could take the positive out of a rough stretch for his Rockies.
De La Rosa returned to the big league mound for the first time in more than a year during his team's 9-2 loss Thursday to the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants, and the lefty showed plenty of encouraging signs in 3 2-3 innings.
"After 16 months I'm very pleased with what I saw from our starting pitcher," Tracy said. "We did a poor job of taking care of the baseball. Two miscues led to seven runs. But the bright spot was the left-handed pitcher who showed he's getting himself back to the guy he can be, and then some."
It was a short day for De La Rosa — but that might have been expected as he came off the 60-day disabled list. He pitched for the first time since May 24, 2011, when he left an outing with elbow soreness and later underwent Tommy John surgery.
De La Rosa was tagged for five earned runs, six in all, and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings. De La Rosa and Jonathan Herrera each had RBI singles for Colorado.
Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez didn't return to the outfield in the bottom of the second after grounding into an inning-ending double play in the first.
He played the entire game Wednesday — with two strikeouts and two groundouts — but was a late scratch Tuesday night with a tight left hamstring. He re-aggravated the leg injury during Thursday's game.
"I tried to go full speed to beat the throw to first," Gonzalez said. "I've pulled the leg before, so it's nothing. I just have to wait until it feels good again before I play a game."
The Rockies were swept in a four-game series in San Francisco for the first time since July 17-20, 2003. They went 2-7 at AT&T Park this year and went 4-14 against the Giants.
Still, De La Rosa's comeback made up for some of the sting of a sixth straight loss.
"It feels good to get back out there and pitch," he said. "At the same time, I didn't get the results I wanted. Everything felt good though, and I can work a lot more. It's all the same thing, you want to make your pitches and if you don't they will hurt you. But things felt normal."
Switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval sure hurt the Rockies.
He homered from both sides of the plate and the first-place Giants reduced their magic number to clinch the division to three.
"It's all up to us to take care of business," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Buster Posey also connected for the Giants to back another strong start by Barry Zito (13-8) as San Francisco completed a four-game sweep.
Zito won his fifth straight decision and has done everything to earn himself a spot in the postseason rotation after being left off all three rounds for the 2010 World Series champions.