Francis focuses on Griffey as Rockies snap three-game skid

Rockies 4, Reds 1

DENVER (AP) -- Jeff Francis' pitching plan revolved around Ken Griffey Jr. Everything else, he figured, would fall into place.

"I focused on him," the Colorado left-hander said of the veteran slugger. "I wanted to give him a lot of different looks."

The plan worked as Francis allowed five hits over seven innings and Todd Helton hit a two-run homer to help the Colorado Rockies end a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

Francis (5-4) struck out six and walked one in winning his third straight start. He struck out Griffey the first two times he faced him.

"I was lucky too," Francis said. "He hit the ball hard the last time I faced him."

He ripped a line drive right at right fielder Brad Hawpe.

Rockies pitchers struck out Griffey three times, the first time this year Griffey has struck out three times in a game. Griffey wasn't around to discuss his 0-for-4 night, but manager Jerry Narron tipped his cap to Francis.

"Jeff Francis has pitched well all year for the Rockies," said Narron. " He did it again tonight and just kept us off balance."

"He's a location guy," Reds outfielder Jeff Conine said. "He had great location tonight."

Francis is 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his last six starts, allowing eight earned runs in 44 innings. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last seven outings.

"His command has been top shelf without allowing a lot of hard contact," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's been ahead in most counts and when he's behind, he gets a lot of 2-0 outs."

Kazuo Matsui had two hits and scored twice for the Rockies.

Brian Fuentes picked up his 16th save in 17 chances.

Reds starter Kyle Lohse (2-7) nearly matched Francis, walking two and not allowing a hit after Matt Holliday's two-out single in the third inning until he left at the end of the sixth inning. He allowed three runs and five hits in losing for the seventh time in eight decisions.

"It's not surprising about Lohse because he has good stuff," Narron said. "Tonight he gave us some good innings."

Lohse had few regrets after the game. Only one, actually.

"The one pitch to Helton is the only pitch I wish I could take back," Lohse said.

Helton homered over the center-field fence on a 1-1 fastball with Matsui on in the first inning to put Colorado ahead 2-0. Matsui singled to center, stole second, and one out later, Helton hit his sixth home run of the year.

"With Francis on the mound, you want to give him a little breathing room if you can because he's throwing so well," Helton said. "You want to take as much pressure off as you can.

"You don't want to put him position of worrying about giving up a big hit in the late inning."

The Rockies added a run in the third inning on Matsui's hustle. With two outs, Matsui singled to right and scored all the way from first on Holliday's hit-and-run bloop single to right.

Francis retired the first 12 batters, striking out Griffey twice before Conine blooped a single in front of Holliday in left field to start the fifth inning.

Conine stole second with two outs. Edwin Encarnacion walked, but Francis got David Ross to ground out to the pitcher.

Cincinnati had a chance in the sixth when Lohse and Norris Hopper both singled to left to start the inning. But Francis struck out Brandon Phillips, Griffey lined to right and Conine grounded out to first.

Cincinnati broke through in the seventh on back-to-back doubles by Alex Gonzalez and Encarnacion.

The Rockies made it 4-1 in the eighth inning on Ryan Spilborghs' leadoff double and a bunt single by Willy Taveras. Spilborghs scored from third when Mike Stanton threw the ball into right field.

Hurdle, who has been with the Rockies for 11 years, had one more thought on Francis.

"Take his last six starts and he's been on a nice streak," Hurdle said. "The kind we haven't seen around here in a long time from a starting pitcher."

Game notes
The Reds optioned LHP Bobby Livingston to Triple-A Louisville. ... RHP Marcus McBeth was recalled from Louisville. ... SS Troy Tulowitzki left the game in the fifth inning with tightness in his right groin and was listed as day-to-day. ... Holliday has an 11-game hitting streak.