Atkins sparks Rockies; Francis shuts down Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Jeff Francis provided exactly the kind of performance the Colorado Rockies so desperately needed as they head into a key weekend series at first-place Arizona.

Francis pitched a six-hitter for his second career shutout, Garrett Atkins homered twice and the Rockies beat the San Francisco Giants 8-0 on Wednesday to avoid a three-game sweep.

Despite their yearslong reputation for losing, the Rockies believe that this year they are clearly in the chase for the NL West going into the final month. After San Diego beat Arizona on Wednesday night, Colorado was 5 1/2 games behind both teams for first place and the NL wild-card spot.

"We still think we're in it," reliever Matt Herges said. "It's feasible."

Francis' big outing sure helped matters.

The left-hander (14-6) struck out three and walked one in his second career complete game. The other was a two-hit shutout against St. Louis on July 24 last year.

He matched his career high with his 14th win -- also accomplished in 2005 -- and had two hits while making his 100th career start. Francis, who became just the sixth pitcher in franchise history with 100 starts, allowed only two batters to reach second base on the way to ending a three-start winless stretch. He is 12-2 since May 7 -- and has won at least 13 games in each of his three full major league seasons.

"Today, I think the thing that struck me most impressively was the fact that he maintained his velocity from start to finish, and actually threw some of his best fastballs in the eighth and ninth innings," manager Clint Hurdle said. "His mechanics were as well in sync as any outing he's had in the big leagues. ... He has a burning desire to be very, very good and demands a lot of himself."

Atkins had his third career multihomer game and second this year, driving in four runs. Kaz Matsui went 4-for-4 with two doubles.

Chris Iannetta and Brad Hawpe each hit solo homers for the Rockies, with Iannetta's coming three batters after Atkins' first homer in the second inning. Atkins connected again with no outs in the third after Matt Holliday walked and Todd Helton singled against Noah Lowry (14-8). Atkins' other multihomer game came June 29 at Houston.

Holliday had an RBI single a day after having his career-best 17-game hitting streak snapped.

"We scored eight runs," said Francis, who also won 14 games in 2005 and then 13 last year. "We did things well on every side of the ball."

Lowry had been 5-0 over his previous seven starts since a loss to Los Angeles on July 15. He reached 70 pitches in the fourth and athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti came out to the mound to check on Lowry after he walked Matsui starting the fourth.

Lowry stayed in the game but then walked Troy Tulowitzki on five pitches and was replaced by Pat Misch. The three innings matched his shortest outing of the year and the three homers were Lowry's season high.

"It was one of those days when I didn't have it," Lowry said. "I hate to say it, but I was reaching back and there was nothing behind it."

Matsui and Tulowitzki pulled off a double steal soon after the pitching change, the 29th stolen base for Matsui this year and No. 7 for Tulowitzki.

Barry Bonds was in the lineup for the afternoon contest following a night game. The slugger, with 761 home runs, went 0-for-2 with a pair of weak popups a day after an 0-for-4 performance. He was replaced in left field to start the seventh.

The 43-year-old home run king is scheduled to sit out Friday's series opener at Washington, giving him two full days off.

Bochy doesn't plan to do much differently with his star player in the final month of the season, which could be Bonds' last in San Francisco after 15 years with the Giants.

"I don't thing at this stage we need to evaluate him," Bochy said. "Barry's had a good year. Here we are approaching September and he's healthy, his legs are healthy and he's swinging the bat well. I don't think we're looking at September as a time to see how he holds up."

Ray Durham returned to San Francisco's starting lineup after recovering from a strained left hamstring injury that kept him from starting the team's previous three games.

Colorado went 5-4 this season in the Giants' waterfront ballpark.

Game notes
The Rockies optioned LHP Franklin Morales to Triple-A Colorado Springs after he was the losing pitcher Tuesday night in just his third major league start. Colorado called up INF Clint Barmes. ... Iannetta was batting .086 (3-for-35) against left-handers this season before his homer. ... Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of Giants' broadcaster Duane Kuiper's first and only home run, hit for Cleveland on Aug. 29, 1977, against Steve Stone of the White Sox. The homer was shown on the main center-field scoreboard.