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SD@COL: Francis allows three hits in stellar start

DENVER -- Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis proved in 2007, and earlier years, that good pitching at Coors Field was possible. Now, Francis is attacking with gusto what is arguably an even tougher validation job.

Francis held the Padres to three hits for six scoreless innings while leading the Rockies to a 10-2 victory on a fireworks Friday night in front of 42,785.

Francis (1-1), who pitched for the Rockies 2004-10, went to the Royals last season and returned this month after a Triple-A stint with the Reds, earned his 56th victory in a Rockies uniform to tie Ubaldo Jimenez for third on the club's career wins list.

Although Francis won Friday for just the first time in his five starts, it was the fourth straight victory in his outings for a Rockies club that has won just six of its last 21 games, and has won consecutive games for the first time since June 3 against the Dodgers and June 4 against the D-backs.

Francis also was the first Rockies starter to win since Christian Friedrich on June 4.

Most important, he has posted a 1.69 ERA in the last three -- all coming after the Rockies went to a four-man rotation, with a modest pitch count of around 75, to the head-scratching not only of traditionalist fans, but many in the baseball world.

"If you want to win, you've got to be a team player," Francis said. "If you're not happy about it, go somewhere else. If we're going to win, we're going to go about it that way, so be happy about it.

"Let's make it work so that [manager] Jim Tracy and [general manager] Dan O'Dowd can get some credit for doing something not many people would do."

Francis had a man at third and one out in the first when he forced a Chase Headley fly to short center and a Carlos Quentin fly to left. With two on and two out in the sixth he worked Headley into a grounder to third.

In between, he allowed one baserunner, when Headley singled with one out in the fourth, but Francis extracted a double-play grounder from Quentin.

"He was mixing pitches," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We just couldn't solve any of them."

Tracy flexed the pitch limit to 82, so Francis could finish the top of the sixth with a 2-0 lead.

"We'll score runs, I've said that all year long," Tracy said. "When you get someone who pitches in the manner in which Jeff Francis did, you put yourself in a favorable position on most nights."

The pitch count might have been a postgame issue if not for a four-run bottom of the sixth against Padres starter Jason Marquis (3-8) -- which included Carlos Gonzalez extending his hit streak to eight games with a triple, then scoring on Logan Forsythe's wild throw on the same play, Michael Cuddyer's double and Tyler Colvin's RBI triple.

Marquis, who pitched on a Rockies team that went to the playoffs in 2009, had thrown four straight quality starts.

"Gonzalez, Cuddyer, I wasn't able to put them away," said Marquis, 1-4 since joining the Padres, after time with the Twins. "Left a few balls up -- probably only the two mistakes I made all night."

Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood, called up on Friday from Triple-A Colorado Springs, gave up a Quentin homer on his second pitch in the seventh and yielded two runs and four hits in one inning, plus three batters in the eighth.

Reliever Rex Brothers, who warmed up before the seventh, replaced Chatwood and retired three straight, the first two on strikeouts.

But no matter the outcome, the commitment to the four-man rotation and a schedule that doesn't offer a day off until the All-Star break dictated that Francis leave after the sixth.

"It's not worth going out there when I have to pitch again on Tuesday," Francis said.

Gonzalez joined the Rockies in 2009, the last year of Francis' injury-plagued time after he led the Rockies to the National League Championship and started Game 1 of the World Series in 2007. He didn't see the Francis who could dial up a mid-90s fastball, but he likes what he sees now.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time, for a starter to earn a win," Gonzalez said. "He was mixing his breaking balls. He hit the strike zone a lot, and he made those guys chase. He was in the zone, making the right pitches."

The Rockies extended the lead with a pair of two-run homers in the eighth off Alex Hinshaw -- by Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario, the 12th of the season for both.

Cuddyer's 2-for-4 night came after he had gone 2-for-12 in the four-game split with the Nationals. Marco Scutaro went 2-for-3 and is 7-for-16 (.438) during the homestand.

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