DENVER -- Madison Bumgarner sounded as if he had just disembarked from a particularly satisfying roller-coaster ride as he discussed the Giants' confrontation Tuesday night with the Colorado Rockies.
"Everybody's fired up," Bumgarner said. "That's what makes the game exciting. Two teams out there that care."
Bumgarner was referring specifically to his trip to first base after being hit by a seventh-inning pitch, prompting a taunting exchange between him and occupants of the Rockies dugout. But the Giants left-hander might as well have been describing the season series between San Francisco and Colorado, which has featured constant intensity.
The drama continued to rise in the opener of this three-game National League West showdown. The Giants hastily grabbed a ninth-inning lead, then squandered it just as quickly as Nolan Arenado's two-out, two-strike, two-run double off San Francisco closer Sergio Romo lifted Colorado to a 5-4 victory at Coors Field.
This tug-of-war typified the season series. Of the seven games the teams have played, five were decided by one run and another ended in extra innings. This particular outcome trimmed the Giants' division lead to two games over the second-place Rockies. It's only May, but the potential exists for this struggle to deepen through September.
These are the same Giants and Rockies who constituted the dregs of the division a year ago.
Asked about the Rockies' turnaround, Bumgarner said, "It's not a surprise [given] the kind of offense they've got. But they're really been pitching good, too. I expect them to be there the whole year, so it's going to be a battle between them and everyone."
"It's become a very competitive rivalry," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "It always seems that somebody wins in the last at-bat, or late, anyway. There have been come crazy finishes when we get together, whether it be at their place or here. They're always competitive series."
This one began that way as the Giants broke a 3-3 tie in their half of the ninth. Brandon Hicks hit a one-out single and scored on ex-Rockie Tyler Colvin's second double of the evening.
The Giants entrusted their lead to Romo, the right-hander who had converted all but one of his previous 16 save opportunities. He courted danger immediately by issuing only his fourth walk all season, a free pass to pinch-hitter Justin Morneau on a 3-2 pitch. Michael Cuddyer flied out to deep right field before Troy Tulowitzki's one-hopper to second base forced out Morneau. Giants manager Bruce Bochy pointed out that Hicks' relay to shortstop Brandon Crawford was slightly wide, eliminating the possibility of a game-ending double play.
Carlos Gonzalez's single to right-center field barely escaped the reach of a leaping Crawford, who was playing up the middle in a shifted infield alignment.
"This is a game of inches," Bochy said.
Up came Arenado, who was 0-for-4 lifetime against Romo. The Rockies third baseman connected with a 2-2 slider and initially appeared to have homered. But the ball struck the top of the left-field wall and caromed back into play as Tulowitzki and Gonzalez scrambled home.
Bochy said that Romo, who left the clubhouse before speaking to reporters, "had pretty good stuff."
Said Arenado, "He's a great reliever. I think that's the first hit I've ever got off of him. I faced him a couple of times and he's just nasty. We had the meat of our order up. We were able to get a couple guys on base and he just hung one. I was able to put a good swing on it."
Before the pot boiled over in the ninth, both teams simmered. Bumgarner hit Tulowitzki with a fifth-inning pitch, which may or may not have incurred the Rockies' wrath. It certainly put Bumgarner on alert, judging from his reaction to being hit in the seventh. Colorado's Rex Brothers struck Bumgarner with an 0-2 delivery, which usually isn't the occasion for a "purpose" pitch.
Bumgarner recalled the incident calmly. Asked if he thought he was thrown at on purpose, he said, "I don't know. Nobody likes getting hit," he said. "It's just a heat-of-the-moment thing. It doesn't look good, anyway. So who knows. They're the only ones that know that."
Bumgarner, who surrendered three runs and eight hits in six innings, managed to carve out a slice of history. He established a franchise mark by recording his 18th consecutive road start in which he allowed three earned runs or fewer, dating back to last June 8.
The Rockies and Giants look destined to enrich each other's history, too.