Jordan Hicks

With lesser velocity, Hicks still refuses to slow down vs. Rockies

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Jordan Hicks doesn't try to hide it. After every fastball, the Giants pitcher looks up at the scoreboard to check his velocity. 

Part of it is to see exactly where he is at and calibrate that with the swing he just saw from a hitter. But part of it is probably just habit for a right-hander who has hit 105 mph in the big leagues and got used to lighting up radar guns when he was a young reliever with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

In the early innings Sunday, Hicks would see 90 or 91 mph when he looked up. There were even some in the 89-mph range, a concerning sign for just about any right-hander, but especially so for someone as gifted as Hicks. He wasn't worried, though. 

Hicks revealed after a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies that he threw up his pregame meal, along with all of the water he chugged to hydrate for his 10th start of the year. When he walked into the bullpen to start warming up, he gave Curt Casali, his new catcher, a warning. 

"I've got 92 today," he said. 

It wasn't an ideal way to try and get a sweep, but it made the win -- the fourth straight for the Giants and fourth this season for Hicks -- that much more encouraging. Hicks already seems to be taking graduate level courses in his transition from relieving to starting, and on Sunday he allowed just a solo homer through five innings without his best stuff. He mixed and matched, leaning heavily on a splitter that was also down about four miles per hour.

And when the Rockies loaded the bases in the sixth, when they led 1-0, Hicks threw a rare four-seamer, reaching back for 96 mph to get an inning-ending popup from Charlie Blackmon. You can thank the mid-game bananas and salted caramel stroopwafels for the extra bolt of energy. 

"What makes it a little bit easier is when you have four pitches to go to and kind of choose," Hicks said. "The slider, I only really had at the top of the zone today. The splitter was doing all kinds of things, going down and breaking left ... I thought the four-seam was a really good pitch today even though I only threw it like six times. That bases-loaded four-seam to [Blackmon], I just thought that was a really good pitch.

"And Curt did a really good job today calling the game. I didn't have to shake too much, I just trusted him. It was our first time out there but I'd like to give my props to him and how he managed the game and just how he goes about it. It was nice to see that and good to be on the same page [for] our first start."

Casali still has not experienced a loss in his second stint with the Giants, who have run off four straight wins after hitting a low point of their season on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They will head back out on the road just two games under .500, with an offense that suddenly is chugging along thanks to an infusion of youth. 

The Giants have known all along that they have the pitching to compete if they can score and defend. If this offensive stretch is sustainable beyond a series against the Rockies' pitching staff, they might finally be poised to go on a bit of a run. 

Hicks won't get his next shot to keep the momentum going until next Saturday, but that extra break is a positive. He'll be on an innings restriction at some point this season, and manager Bob Melvin said Sunday that Hicks was going to go five innings regardless of what happened in his final frame. 

By getting the pop-up, Hicks lowered his ERA to 2.38, which ranks fifth in the National League. His first 10 starts couldn't have gone much better, and even Sunday's unfortunately timed upset stomach came with a silver lining. It gave Hicks another opportunity to prove that he has become a pitcher, not just someone who throws very, very, very hard. 

Hicks said that in the past he sometimes would dial it back from 101 to 98 to throw a hitter's timing off. On Sunday, the numbers were way lower, but the concept was the same. 

"It tells me that my sinker with that action is good at pretty much any velocity above like 87, 88," he said. "I'm very confident in that pitch at any velocity, to be honest, and today kind of just reaffirms that and gives me that confidence at [any] velo."

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