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Niekro snaps out of slump, Giants end funk

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- One improbable rally has the San Francisco
Giants believing again.

Lance Niekro broke out of a slump with a tiebreaking, two-run
double in the eighth inning, and the Giants snapped a four-game
losing streak with a 6-4 win over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

Afterward, music blared through the clubhouse, players laughed
for a change, and shortstop Omar Vizquel signed autographs and
socialized in the hallway for several minutes.

"That rally and win itself might help morale and the feeling
here of defeat," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "It's one win.
I wish it had been five games. Hey, things start small like that --
who knows? There will be more confidence tomorrow."

The Giants showed some late-inning energy not exhibited from
this downtrodden club in recent days, rallying for five runs on
seven straight hits in the eighth to keep Colorado from its first
three-game sweep in San Francisco.

After pinch-hitter Deivi Cruz flied out to start the eighth, the
Giants broke loose. Dan Miceli failed to field consecutive infield
singles by Randy Winn and Michael Tucker. Winn's ball glanced off
Miceli's glove, then Tucker's hit the pitcher's left foot -- and
Miceli looked in all directions in the air before discovering the
ball on the ground.

"You've got a double-play ball if he catches it or lets it
go," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said of the hit by Winn. "Then
Tucker's ball hit his foot. If it was a double play, we wouldn't
have run into all that other trouble. We had one bad inning in
three days. We played good baseball here."

Alou hasn't seen such a crazy play since he was a player for the
Giants in the 1962 postseason against the Dodgers and Willie Mays
hit a ball that the pitcher picked up and dropped twice.

San Francisco tied it on Ray Durham's RBI single off Miceli
(1-2) following a two-run single by Pedro Feliz. Niekro's hit ended
an 0-for-13 slump.

It was a gloomy dugout -- the Giants had just three hits going
into the eighth -- before the rally.

"It was pretty quiet in there," Niekro said. "It's hard not
to get down when things aren't going how you want them to. I hope
this puts a little pep in our step."

Scott Munter (2-0) pitched the eighth for the win and Tyler
Walker got his 19th save in 24 opportunities.

J.D. Closser homered and Garrett Atkins hit a two-run double for
the Rockies, who won the first two games of the series each by one
run and earned back-to-back road victories for the first time this
year. Colorado hasn't swept a three-game road series since July
23-25 last year in Arizona.

The bullpen blew it for starter Jose Acevedo, who pitched six
strong innings for the third straight start and retired 11 of his
final 12 batters.

Closser hit his seventh homer leading off the seventh. Atkins
staked Acevedo to an early lead with his double in the first.

Feliz hit a sacrifice fly in the first for the Giants, but they
couldn't muster much more until he hit a bases-loaded, two-run
single in the eighth. Winn tripled in the first and doubled in the
third, but the Giants left runners on second and third that inning.

Alou considers the next week or so to be a critical period for
his team to either stay in the NL West chase or fall out
altogether. San Francisco plays the surging Astros this weekend --
and has to face Houston's top three pitchers: Andy Pettitte, Roy
Oswalt and Roger Clemens.

Kevin Correia struck out a career-high six in six innings for
the Giants, allowing five hits and two earned runs. The 24-year-old
right-hander started in place of struggling veteran Kirk Rueter,
who was sent to the bullpen for the second time this season.

Colorado has exhibited impressive energy considering the club is
in a stretch with 34 games in 34 days to start the second half.
After a weekend series in Arizona, the Rockies return to Coors
Field for a franchise-record 14-game homestand.

"The breaks didn't go our way, but that's part of the game,"
Miceli said. "You've got to try to forget about it and tackle the
next situation."

Giants outfielder Moises Alou missed his second straight game
and probably won't play until Saturday at the earliest because of a
tight right hamstring.

Game notes
Winn was a home run shy of the cycle. ... The Giants
activated C Mike Matheny from the bereavement list after missing
two games because of the death of his grandfather. ... Colorado's
Dustan Mohr started in CF as Hurdle gave the struggling Cory
Sullivan a day to rest -- and it might not be the only one. "He
says he feels fine," Hurdle said. "We'll monitor it. He's going
to get some rest." Hurdle also plans to use new OF Larry Bigbie in
center sometime soon. ... Injured Giants closer Armando Benitez,
recovering from surgery to reattach two torn hamstring tendons to
his pelvis, pitched one perfect inning in a rehab outing for
Class-A San Jose against Lake Elsinore.