Rockies head into offseason on winning note

Rockies head into offseason on winning note

Rockies head into offseason on winning note
PHOENIX -- Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis pitched Wednesday as if he doesn't want to say goodbye. He confirmed that sentiment after earning a 2-1 victory over the D-backs in the final game of the season.

Francis (6-7) pitched five innings, struck out three and gave up three hits, including A.J. Pollock's second home run of the season, in the third inning. The victory left the Rockies at 64-98, last in the National League West. The D-backs finished third in the division at 81-81.

After breaking in with the Rockies and being a key figure on the 2007 National League champion club, Francis dealt with shoulder issues that led to a surgery that cost him the 2010 season, spent last season with the Royals and began this year in Triple-A with the Reds. Francis re-signed with the Rockies in June and was solid more often than not in his 24 starts.

After the strong finish, Francis heads into free agency but has eyes for the Rockies, who finished on a good note but ended up with the worst record in team history. He would like to re-sign, and believes a quick turnaround is possible.

"This is where I've spent 90 percent of my career," said Francis, who said he has yet to enter contract talks with the club. "For me, there would be no better place to have a winning team. It would be a huge accomplishment for this team to win some big games. I've gone through it here before, and we have what it takes. It would be a lot of fun."

Francis was better in the beginning than the end. He finished with a 5.58 ERA, and Wednesday's win was his first since Aug. 27 and second since July 25. But Francis was a leader during the long period when the Rockies -- riddled by injuries and confounded by poor start after poor start -- went with four starters on a strict pitch count, and the club sees him as a mentor to younger pitchers. Manager Jim Tracy also said Francis could be more effective next season.

"He's an ambassador and the guy can pitch," Tracy said. "I personally feel there's a couple of miles an hour that he has a chance of regaining, and so does our pitching coach [Bo McLaughlin]. The pitch ability is phenomenal."

The Rockies scored their runs in the fourth against Ian Kennedy (15-12) on a throwing error by D-backs third baseman Chris Johnson and DJ LeMahieu's RBI single. The bullpen pitched four scoreless innings, but not without drama.

Matt Belisle replaced Rex Brothers with runners at the corners with two out in the ninth. Aaron Hill, whose ninth-inning homer off Rafael Betancourt gave the D-backs a 5-3 victory Tuesday night, lined out to deep left, and Belisle ended up with his third save.

It was the Rockies' first road series win since a four-game sweep of the Mets on Aug. 20-23.

The game had few runs but a little spice. With David Hernandez pitching in the eighth, the Rockies' Andrew Brown checked a swing and appeared to be hit on his right wrist. However, home plate umpire Mark Ripperger ruled that the pitch caromed off Brown's bat. Brown left his bat on the dirt and argued. Manager Jim Tracy emerged from the dugout for a lengthy discussion.

When Brown struck out, he spiked the bat much the way a running back would slam the football after a touchdown, and finished his rookie season with his first Major League ejection.

Jordan Pacheco went 3-for-4 to bring his batting average to .309, which led NL rookies.

Tracy, who is expected to return next season (a meeting is scheduled Friday with Major League operations vice president Bill Geivett), addressed the club before the game and said he enjoyed the way a young roster pushed to the end. The Rockies spent much of the season without star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki because of a left groin injury suffered in late May, and by season's end they had lost veteran regulars Michael Cuddyer, Todd Helton and Ramon Hernandez to injuries.

"There's so much to look forward to from the standpoint of allowing some young people to grow up at this level and taking some of the punches that go with it," Tracy said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.