video thumbnail

SD@COL: Francis tosses six innings of one-run ball

It was an historic April for Tampa Bay's Matt Moore, but the 23-year-old left-hander is hoping his success lingers a little longer than just one record-setting month.

He gets the ball Friday in the first game of a three-game set between the Rockies and Rays at Coors Field, looking to continue a torrid start to the season.

Moore (5-0, 1.13 ERA) is just the sixth pitcher under 24 years old to go 5-0 or better through April. He put himself in some pretty exclusive company by doing so, joining Babe Ruth, Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden, Greg Swindell and Dontrelle Willis.

"When guys are going really well, even as a Minor League hitting coach, the only thing I would tell them is, 'Nice going. And the only thing I can do now is hurt you by saying something, so I'll just watch you,'" Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "So with Matt, I think it's the perfect opportunity to just watch and say very little to him and just let him play."

Things get a little trickier now for Moore, however, as he is facing a Rockies lineup that leads the National League in runs and batting average. That offensive onslaught has propelled Colorado to first place in the National League West.

"It's a different team," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We can hit with anybody, and our hitters can survive defensively. We can separate ourselves. There are a lot of guys that can hit, but you turn around and they can't play on the other side of the ball. There are guys on this team that can. It makes us pretty special, and it translates to wins."

Troy Tulowitzki returned to the lineup for the Rockies on Wednesday after he had missed two games with a left shoulder injury. The two-time All-Star shortstop went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Opposite Moore will be fellow southpaw Jeff Francis, coming off his first solid start of the 2013 season. He gave up two first-inning runs against Arizona but settled down to pitch four scoreless frames after that. Francis has struggled with his changeup, giving up a homer and a triple with the pitch, before straying from it for the remainder of the game.

Coming off a 3-4 road stretch, Colorado is set to return to a chilly home field.

"It was a rough April," Weiss said. "I think we had a snowstorm every week in April, which is kind of bizarre. It'll be good to get back home, though."

Friday will mark the first meeting between Colorado and Tampa Bay since 2009, when the Rockies took two out of three at Coors Field.

Rays: Pitchers ready to hit
• There's a case to be made that Moore is more excited about stepping into the Coors Field batter's box than taking the mound Friday. Moore said Thursday that his swing is "getting there," but he wants to put a mark in his hit column before David Price and Alex Cobb get a chance later this weekend.

"We want a hit so bad. We want somebody to get a hit so we can just talk and have a batting average," Moore said. "That's what we're trying to do, get a batting average."

Moore said he'll have to pay more attention than usual when he heads to the dugout on Friday.

"Especially if you're due up fourth and fifth, you want to get something going. You want your guys to get on base, but at the same time you want to have a breather," Moore said. "I like it. Honestly, If you told me I good pick the way the rules would be, I would much rather have my say-so in the batter's box than kind of just sitting my turn out. It will be fun."

• The Rays' game Thursday against the Royals was postponed due to snow and will be replayed at a later date.

• Matt Joyce's first-inning long-ball on Wednesday extended the Rays' streak to 16 consecutive games with a home run. It is the longest such streak in the Major Leagues this year.

"If we can [reduce strikeouts] and maintain this kind of power production, that could make for a really interesting offense as we get this thing in gear," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The Rays' streak comes after the club notched just four homers through the first 11 games.

Rockies: Nelson heads to the Bronx
• The Rockies traded infielder Chris Nelson to the Yankees on Wednesday in exchange for cash considerations and a player to be named, the Rockies said.

Nelson spent parts of four seasons with the Rockies, amassing a .279 average with 172 hits. He typically split time between second and third base, playing sporadically at short. In 66 at-bats this season, Nelson was hitting .242 with just three extra-base hits.

Worth noting
• The Rays and Rockies -- both expansion clubs from the 1990s -- have met four times in their histories (all three-game sets). Colorado has taken seven of nine games at Coors Field, but the Rays swept the Rockies in Colorado's lone visit to Tampa Bay in 2004.

• On their recent seven-game road stretch, the Rockies' bullpen conceded just three runs in 24 2/3 innings pitched, and all three were unearned.

• Rays first baseman James Loney has mustered only a single in 17 at-bats against Francis. Meanwhile, Kelly Johnson is 7-for-15 with a homer versus Francis.

• Moore, a native of New Mexico, said he was leaving tickets for 20 people Friday, including his parents, brother, aunt and uncle and a few high school friends. They won't be deterred by the chilly Colorado weather, either: Moore remembers pitching in the snow and in 30-degree temperatures in New Mexico.

MLB.com Comments