Backed by homers, Francis puzzles LA
Left-hander goes 7 1/3 innings to improve record to 8-5
DENVER -- The Rockies' biggest crowd of the year on the Fourth of July oohed and ahhed for the postgame fireworks show, but Tuesday's audience was awed by something more impressive -- another gem by rookie Jeff Francis.Francis (8-5) sparkled to win his third straight and the fans greeted him with a standing ovation when he left in the eighth inning of Colorado's 6-1 win over the Dodgers in front of 20,063 at Coors Field. "I can't really describe it," Francis said about the ovation he received. "It's a pretty awesome feeling when that many people appreciate what you do." The southpaw tossed 7 1/3 innings, scattering 11 hits and yielding one run. He walked none and whiffed five, while getting out of several jams, including a bases-loaded situation in the first. Francis induced Jayson Werth into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat. Francis is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in his last three starts, his second three-game win streak of the year. "I told myself not to forget how that felt," Francis said about his previous start in St. Louis, when he blanked the National League's best team for six innings. Los Angeles stranded 10 runners and was not able to get a hit off Francis in clutch situations. The Dodgers left two men on in three of the first four innings. "The big key to the game was the first two innings," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He [Francis] gave up five hits, they didn't score a run." Francis is 8-1 lifetime at Coors Field with a 3.05 ERA and 6-1 this year at home, posting a 3.18 ERA. "He's been throwing the ball well all year," Todd Helton said. "He's consistent every time he takes the mound." JD Closser provided all the offense the Rockies needed with a three-run homer in the second inning, the first of his career from the right side. Closser has seen limited playing time recently because of Danny Ardoin's solid performance behind the plate, but has homered his last two starts. "I mean, it felt good, it felt good coming off the bat," Closser said. "I guess I knew I hit it pretty well." While Closser has struggled behind the plate due to an inability to throw out potential basestealers (2-for-30), Hurdle credited him with calling a good game Tuesday and stopping several balls in the dirt. "At this level, you have to be able to just dust things off sometimes and go on to the next day," Closser said. "It's funny how the baseball gods shine down on you and give you a little mercy every once in a while." Helton belted his seventh homer of the year in the seventh inning, a two-run shot that also scored Eddy Garabito. Helton, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a stolen base, has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games. The home run was the 258th of his career (all with Colorado), tying Larry Walker's franchise record. "It should've been a long time ago," said Helton about reaching the milestone. "They've been few and far between for me." It was Helton's first long ball at Coors Field since May 14. He is 20-for-43 (.465) lifetime against losing pitcher Odalis Perez (4-5) after collecting two more hits off the southpaw. Perez went five innings, giving up eight hits and four runs. On the day he was named National League Rookie of the Month for June, Garrett Atkins celebrated with a 3-for-4 performance and scored a run. Marcos Carvajal pitched the final 1 2/3 innings, giving up one hit and striking out one. The Dodgers let Carvajal go in the 2004 Rule 5 Draft, and he has pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings over the last two games. Carvajal was animated after picking up the final out, pointing up toward the sky.
Michael Gluskin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.