05/29/10 1:24 AM ET
Rockies fritter away early lead in opener
Francis spotted four runs, unravels in sixth inning
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
It has become an all-too-familiar tune for Colorado, which suffered a 5-4 loss to Los Angeles on Friday night at Coors Field.
The Rockies have lost three of four to their National League West mates this year and are 5-17 against the Dodgers dating back to last season.
"It's just a number," Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "I'm not going to say they're better than us. They're a pretty competitive team, too. They've just been playing better than us and taking every opportunity to win ballgames."
The Rockies were counting on the mojo of a five-game winning streak and the reinvigorated left arm of Jeff Francis to help buck the trend, but Friday was not the night.
"It's a very good ballgame," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "It's a tough game to lose."
The Rockies wasted no time against Dodgers starter Carlos Monasterios (2-0), as Gonzalez singled to lead off the bottom of the first and scored on a wild pitch. Later in the inning, catcher Miguel Olivo singled home outfielder Seth Smith with two outs to make it 2-0.
In the fourth, third baseman Ian Stewart scored Olivo on a sacrifice fly after Olivo tripled to lead off the inning. Second baseman Clint Barmes followed with a solo homer to center, which took a three-minute instant replay from the umpire crew to confirm, for a 4-0 lead.
In his third start back from season-ending shoulder surgery last year, Francis (1-1) had a promising start to the ballgame, facing only 12 batters in the first four innings and holding the Dodgers scoreless until a Matt Kemp leadoff homer in the fifth.
It was the first in a five-run Los Angeles comeback effort.
"I started getting under the ball," Francis said. "The ball didn't have that life on it that it usually does. I was just trying to create something I had in the first few innings and, for some reason, it was something I couldn't grasp in the sixth."
Kemp's homer eventually proved minuscule compared to the four-run sixth inning that ensued for the Dodgers. After a sacrifice fly from Rafael Furcal and a double from Garret Anderson cut the lead to 4-3, Manny Ramirez hit his first career homer at Coors Field -- a two-run blast -- to give Los Angeles the ultimate 5-4 advantage.
"Last year was very tough for him, and he came back just swinging out of his shoes," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of Ramirez. "He made up his mind to just straighten his swing out and come in and play baseball."
Both teams' bullpens held firm through the ninth, and the Rockies failed to score with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh and ninth innings. Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton struck out Ryan Spilborghs with two outs and two men on in the ninth for Broxton's 12th save.
The loss denied the Rockies the opportunity to pull even with the Dodgers in the NL West standings, behind San Diego, which lost Friday.
To make matters worse, the Rockies are 2-8 against the Dodgers at Coors Field dating back to last season. It was a hex that could not be broken by a large home crowd (40,162), set in part by the Rockies' day-of-game ticket sales record of more than 9,000.
"Those are two really good baseball teams that are going to be around in this pennant race for quite a while," Tracy said. "There will be a game [that] we'll walk in here and have won in a similar fashion."
Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.