Rockies jump out early, fall to Phillies
Francis falters after being handed a three-run lead in the first
PHILADELPHIA -- Thursday was a bad night for left-hander Jeff Francis to have a rare bad performance.
The Rockies spotted Francis three runs in the top of the first, but he gave up four in the bottom of the frame and proceeded to yield eight runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 12-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park before 42,623.
"I felt fine, but the ball wasn't going where I wanted it to all the time, and I fell behind a lot of guys," said Francis (15-8). "It's just not going to work."
These National League Wild Card contenders ended the series in a split. The Phillies are now a game closer to the front-running Padres than the Rockies. San Diego lost to Los Angeles on Thursday, leaving the Padres 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies and Dodgers, and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Rockies.
The Rockies on Friday open a three-game set with the Marlins, and on Tuesday play a doubleheader against the contending Dodgers to begin a four-game series.
Each team scored 12 runs in one of the games, and the winning team never scored fewer than six. Overall, the Rockies outscored the Philies, 29-20.
"These two teams are very similar, and we were very similar through the four games," manager Clint Hurdle said. "They battle. They play hard. They grind. We've both got some holes. We've both got some strengths."
The Rockies put up three hits and two walks against Phillies starter J.D. Durbin in the first. They then put two runners on base to open the second against Durbin before the Phils went to Geoff Geary (2-2). But Geary pitched three one-hit innings, and the Rockies didn't score again until Garrett Atkins' homer, his 22nd of the season, in the fifth.
"We liked our chances there, but it just didn't work out," first baseman Todd Helton said. "It would've been a big win for us. We're going to have to step it up.
"We're going to have to get hot and put it together."
Francis gave up four hits in the first. The first run scored when catcher Chris Iannetta let a pitch go under his glove for a passed ball, then Aaron Rowand knocked an RBI single and Wes Helms added a two-run double as the Phils took a 4-3 lead. Chase Utley's two-run homer on a poorly located Francis changeup paced a four-run fourth.
"I thought I caught some breaks in the second inning to get out of it with no runs, and I had a decent third inning, but I just didn't make the pitches I needed to get out of the fourth," Francis said.
"They're human beings," Hurdle said. "Every ace throws a shoe every now and then. They never like to. You never want them to. But if you look across the board, it happens. I'm sure he's looking forward to getting the ball next time."
Things became dicey in the fifth, when reliever Ramon Ortiz drilled Jayson Werth in the back of the shoulder with the bases loaded. In the seventh, Phillies reliever Antonio Alfonseca earned an ejection from home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck when he hit Helton with a high inside pitch.
Werth said that he wasn't sure about Ortiz's intent, since the bases were loaded and the game wasn't out of reach, especially at Citizens Bank Park and with the Rockies' firepower.
Helton had no doubts.
"He was throwing at me," said Helton, who added that he does not have a history of confrontation with Alfonseca. "I don't know. Sometimes you can't figure it out."
Alfonseca saw it differently, saying, "I wasn't trying to hit him. I respect [him]. He [shouldn't] take it personal. I don't want to hit him. I was sorry. I've known him a long time."
There had been hard feelings on Wednesday night, when Matt Holliday was hit by Geary, then came back later and took a mighty swing to hit his second homer of the night, off Fabio Castro.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.