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TEX@SD: Marquis strikes out 10 Rangers despite loss

With a win Friday against the Padres, Rockies starter Jeff Francis will tie Ubaldo Jimenez (56 wins) for the third most wins in Colorado franchise history. The lefty is third all-time in innings pitched (901 1/3) and starts (153), and he's fourth in strikeouts (633).

Francis' largely unheralded path to the top of the Rockies' record books is an intriguing one, albeit one that seemed doomed when the team didn't re-sign him after an ineffective 2010 campaign. Prior to his departure, Francis had been a consistent presence in the often rocky Rockies rotation, particularly during the club's World Series season of 2007. The lefty finished in the top 10 in National League Cy Young Award voting that season after going 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA.

Francis was the Rockies' No. 1 Draft choice out of the University of British Columbia in 2002, and he made his Major League debut with the club in August 2004. From that time until his departure two years ago, Francis amassed 55 wins in 149 starts.

It makes sense, then, that when Colorado's tattered pitching staff was in need of an arm earlier this month, the club looked to the 31-year-old Francis: now healthy, still relatively young, and still with a home in the Denver area. In four starts with limited pitch count in the Rockies' experimental four-man rotation, he is pitching to a 7.23 ERA (15 runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched) with 11 strikeouts.

"It's different, for sure," Francis said of the four-man rotation following his most recent start against the Nationals on June 25. "It's not what we're used to. But we're asked to do a job. ... If we can do that, over the long haul, we're going to feel like we're going out there a lot more often."

Francis will be opposed by a former teammate, Jason Marquis, who pitched to a 15-13 record for Colorado in 2009, the year Francis lost to injury. Like Francis, Marquis joined his current rotation very recently: His first start with San Diego was June 7, the same day Francis signed his deal with Colorado.

The 33-year-old righty has been strong in four starts with San Diego, after struggling in seven starts with the Twins earlier this year. His 1-3 record is more a reflection of a sputtering Padres offense than any shortcomings on the part of Marquis, who has thrown a quality start in each of his outings with San Diego, and has a 2.05 ERA.

Padres: Alonso back with a vengeance
Since returning to the starting lineup on Wednesday night after a three-game absence with a sore left knee, first baseman Yonder Alonso has has gone 4-for-6.

• With his ninth-inning single in Thursday's game against the Astros, Mark Kotsay pushed his pinch-hitting record to 6-for-17 (.353) on the season. He is 47-for-150 (.313) in his career as a pinch-hitter, second among active players.

Rockies: CarGo killing it
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez continues to tear up opposing pitchers and climb the NL rankings in nearly every offensive category. His three hits on Thursday afternoon in Colorado's 11-10 win over the Nationals pushed his average to .339, fifth in the NL, and his two RBIs give him 56, the NL's second-highest total. His 95 hits are third most on the Senior Circuit.

The most impressive stat of the 26-year-old's season so far, however, may be total bases. With his three singles Thursday afternoon, Gonzalez solidified his NL-leading total of 170.

• Rockies manager Jim Tracy gave Michael Cuddyer a day off from the starting lineup Thursday to give the struggling outfielder a day to help him mentally refocus heading into this weekend's series with the Padres.

Cuddyer enters the series hitting .256 with 11 homers this season, but was just 4-for-41 (.098) in his last 10 games.

Worth noting
• Gonzalez was traded to the Rockies by the A's in a November 2008 deal that sent Matt Holliday to Oakland. Among the other players sent to Denver in the deal was current Padres closer Huston Street.

• When the Padres dropped a 1-0 decision to the Astros on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, they did so in just one hour and 58 minutes, their shortest game since a July 1, 2008, loss to the Rockies. Aaron Cook got the shutout in the 4-0 Colorado win in that game.

• Andrew Cashner carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning in just his second start of the season. Cashner was sent to Double-A San Antonio to lengthen from reliever to starter, and was recalled before Thursday's game. The righty struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings, yielding two runs on two hits.

• Alexi Amarista's go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning of Thursday's game was his first career home run, and just the second grand slam of the season of the Padres (Chase Headley, April 8 vs. Dodgers).

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