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Notes: Francis racking up milestones

Notes: Francis racking up milestones

DENVER -- Jeff Francis has accomplished a lot this season, setting career highs and breaking Rockies records. He hasn't even been able to keep track.

Francis had two achievements Tuesday, a career-high 10 strikeouts and his 16th victory, which passed Shawn Estes for the most wins by a lefty in one season for the Rockies. Francis thought he had tied Estes and was unaware of his strikeouts until after the game.

Francis' strikeouts were the most by a Rockies pitcher in the last 661 games.

"I hadn't even thought twice about striking out a lot of guys," Francis said. "When the season's over, you look back on things like that, but I think there's something bigger we're working towards right now."

That something bigger, of course, is a ticket to the playoffs. The Rockies' offense and players like Matt Holliday and Todd Helton have gotten most of the acclaim for the Rockies' success this season. But Francis has been the one constant in the Rockies' pitching staff.

While his rotation mates have gone down with injuries, Francis has only missed one start because of a suspension.

Despite a 1-4 start, Francis has had one of the best seasons in Rockies history and has become one of the top starters in the National League.

Francis ranks second in the NL in wins -- he's one short of the franchise record -- and his career-high 152 strikeouts rank 13th in the NL.

"He takes care of himself," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He studies hitters, watches swings. He's put himself in a real good position. For this organization, obviously, he's become a staple."

Matsui back: Hurdle said Wednesday that Kazuo Matsui would be available to play in Wednesday night's game against the Dodgers and would make a start soon.

Matsui has not played since Sept. 8 because of a strained right hamstring that he injured trying to beat out a ground ball. He has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls the last several days and said his leg has felt good.

"I have to play the game to know," Matsui said through his translator. "At this point, the thing is to be able to play in the game or not."

Dessens close to return: The Rockies have not announced a starter for Saturday's game in San Diego, and a strong candidate looks to be Elmer Dessens.

Dessens threw to live hitters Wednesday for the first time since he strained his left hamstring in his Sept. 7 start.

"I feel good," he said. "They haven't told me what they're going to do next, but I feel good with my legs and I don't have any problem with my arm."

Next up: The Rockies and Dodgers play the series finale Thursday at Coors Field. Rookie Ubaldo Jimenez (3-4, 4.13 ERA) starts for the Rox against Dodgers veteran Derek Lowe (12-12, 3.71 ERA). Game time is 1:05 p.m. MT.

C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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