DENVER (AP) -- Raw rookies and savvy veterans alike have had
their arms and egos shredded at unforgiving Coors Field. Call Jeff Francis crazy, but he kinda likes the place.
The Rockies rookie stayed undefeated at the ballpark most
pitchers love to hate, allowing one run over six innings Thursday
to lift Colorado to a 3-1 victory over the struggling San Francisco Giants.
"I feel comfortable," Francis said. "I walk out there to warm
up, the fans are rooting me on. The guys on the team are excited
Francis (4-1), largely considered one of the best pitchers in
the minors last year, improved to 5-0 at Coors, dating to late last
season when he was called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs.
He became only the fourth pitcher to win his first five
decisions in the 10-plus seasons the park has been open. Greg
Maddux and Denny Stark each won their first five, and Darren Oliver
holds the record with six straight victories.
Using a fastball that rarely topped more than 90 mph and his
effective changeup more than his curve, Francis allowed seven hits
and struck out five. His ERA at Coors is 2.92 this season.
"If there's enough difference between the changeup and the
fastball, it allows hitters to stay off the barrel," Rockies
manager Clint Hurdle said in explaining Francis' success. "That's
what he's been able to do."
Luis Gonzalez hit a solo homer off Brett Tomko (3-6) and Garrett
Atkins hit another off Matt Herges to help the Rockies close their
homestand at 5-5. They won two of three series and now head out for
a 10-game road trip.
Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, San Francisco had runners on first
and second with one out, but Jose Acevedo got Pedro Feliz to ground
into a double play. The Giants finished with 10 hits, but stranded
10 and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"When you have 10 hits in this yard here you should have more
than one run," manager Felipe Alou said.
Fuentes came into a 2-2 game in the ninth Wednesday but allowed
the winning run in a 3-2 loss. This time, he was successful. He
earned his first save since Sept. 21, 2003, and for the second
straight day, the Rockies and Giants played the lowest-scoring game
of the season at Coors Field.
"Today, I was the same guy, but I made better pitches down,"
Deivi Cruz had three hits, and Ray Durham and Lance Niekro added
two hits apiece for the Giants, but it didn't prevent them from
losing for the fourth time in five games. At 19-21 and in fourth
place in the NL West, they're still six games ahead of last-place
Colorado (12-26), which is tied with Kansas City for fewest wins in
the major leagues.
"These guys show up thinking they're going to win every game,"
Hurdle said. "That's the beauty of it. The reality of it is we
know we've got some issues to overcome."
Cory Sullivan had three hits and an RBI for the Rockies.
Francis, a 24-year-old left-hander, is definitely a bright spot
on Colorado's rebuilding roster. The only run he allowed came when
Niekro lined a shot into the loading dock beyond the left-field
wall in the sixth. Francis allowed two baserunners in the second,
but got out of that jam. In all, he allowed the leadoff batter to
reach base in four innings, but got out of all of them unscathed.
In addition to his surprising success at Coors, Francis also is
much better in the daytime than at night. He improved to 6-0 in
nine afternoon starts, compared to 1-3 with an ERA over 8.00 at
"He's pretty good," Alou said. "And he's going to get
Colorado catcher J.D. Closser returned to the lineup after
taking a few games off while Hurdle helped him with some
adjustments in his swing. Closser went 0-for-3 and grounded into a
double play. ... Dustan Mohr got a start for the Rockies and went
0-for-4 with four strikeouts and six runners left on base. ... Alou
didn't have to use Jeff Fassero out of the bullpen, meaning he'll
likely get the start Saturday against Oakland in place of Jason
Schmidt, who is on the DL with shoulder pain.