Francis sets stage for Rox's comeback in Philly

Francis sets stage for Rox's comeback in Philly

Francis sets stage for Rox's comeback in Philly
PHILADELPHIA -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy hopes his younger starting pitchers paid close attention to Jeff Francis' outing against the Phillies on Thursday night.

Francis was efficient enough to pitch through five innings on just 76 pitches. The veteran left-hander kept the Rockies in the game, which they went on to win, 4-1, with the help of shutdown bullpen work and home runs from a duo of more youthful, bottom-of-the-order Rockies.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak and was the Rockies' second in their last 14 games.

Allowing one run on six hits while walking only one, Francis effectively displayed how Tracy's new four-man rotation is supposed to work. Limited to roughly 75 pitches per outing, the starter has to be very efficient.

"We're gonna buy into it," Francis said of the four-man rotation. "We're only doing this to help ourselves. We don't care if it's getting blown up [in the media] or not. If there's a way that we can make it work, then we're gonna do it."

Despite a good outing, Francis left the game with his club trailing, 1-0. Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins took advantage of a changeup Francis left over the plate in the first inning, launching it into the left-field seats at Citizens Bank Park.

The Rockies' offense finally broke through in the seventh, when Chris Nelson hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Phillies starter Vance Worley, who up to that point had given up just three hits.

After battling through an early season left wrist injury, Nelson is starting to heat up. Thursday's home run marked the second in as many days, and all five of his home runs have come in June. Four of his last six hits have been for extra bases.

"We saw signs that he was capable of this last year," Tracy said, adding he has also been impressed with the strides Nelson's made defensively as a second baseman. "He's got power, there's no question about it. ... The bat is showing up the way we saw it show up last year."

Wilin Rosario, the Rockies' eight-hole hitter, also homered for the second consecutive game, giving closer Rafael Betancourt two insurance runs to work with in the ninth.

Betancourt, one night after taking a loss, retired the side in order to earn his 11th save. Josh Roenicke, Rex Brothers and Matt Belisle held down the fort, allowing no runs on two hits in a combined three innings.

Tracy also praised Rosario for his performance, offensively and defensively. Rosario leads all Major League rookies with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.

"We've got a chance to have a pretty special player on our hands as we go forward," the manager said. "There's no doubt about that."

But it was Francis who kept the Rockies in the game. Though he admitted the pitch count was in the back of his mind, he tried not to think about it. He commanded his fastball well and kept the ball down and away from the Phillies' hitters.

Thursday's win was refreshing for a Rockies ballclub that has struggled mightily as of late, and at 26-42, owns the third-worst record in the National League.

"Things have been very, very tough, we know that," Tracy said. "There's a lot of the baseball season to play. But we know, as we move forward, that we have to continue to grow in a lot of areas."

The Rockies now head to Texas to face the Rangers, with the first of a three-game series at 6:05 MT on Friday night. They will face Roy Oswalt, who will be making his first start since he was signed as a free agent on May 29.

"When you sit down here right now and look at it, we were in position to win two games in this series," Tracy said of the three-game set at Philadelphia. "But it didn't happen, and now we're going to go play an awfully good baseball team."

Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.