Francis was phenomenal, pitching seven innings and giving up a run on seven hits. He struck out six and walked just two hitters. It was a vintage Jeff Francis performance. His performance should have given him the win, but the Rockies had to wait until the 8th inning to take the lead, giving the win to reliever Matt Belisle when Brad Hawpe hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate Seth Smith who had walked to lead off the inning.
In the first inning it seemed like Francis might not have been up to the task. He gave up a single to Nyjer Morgan, then a double to Ian Desmond. With runners on 2nd and 3rd base with no one out, it looked like the Rockies would need to bring the bats in order to have a chance in the game.
Francis, however, had different thoughts. After a sacrifice fly off the bat of Cristian Guzman, Francis was able to get out of the inning.
The crafty lefty dealt with traffic again in the sixth inning, but was able to wiggle out of a jam, striking out two to end the inning with runners on 1st and 2nd.
The next inning Francis again found himself in a two-on, one out jam. This time he got future hall of famer Ivan Rodriguez to bounce back to the mound, starting a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play.
For the Rockies, Francis returning to anywhere near the pitcher that he once was is a huge step. All through 2008, the lefty was clearly dealing with arm issues that went undiagnosed until spring training of '09. At that point he was lost for the entire season.
Essentially two years removed from being the pitcher that led the Rockies to the World Series, Francis now gets to put his mark back on Coors Field and reclaim some of the reputation that he worked so hard to gain.
Despite being a game above .500, there is not a member of the Colorado Rockies organization that would say this team has performed the way that it is capable of. Much of the problem has come from the starting rotation. With Francis out, the Rockies have had to piece things together from the beginning. After losing Jorge De La Rosa to injury, the Rockies were on a boat without a paddle.
Francis' return to the rotation symbolizes the club turning the corner on their injury plagued early season. He brings a stability that the Rockies have lacked in his absence. While Greg Smith has held his own, Francis showed on Sunday why he is such an important part of the team. He knows how to get outs.
While no one does or should expect the Jeff Francis from 2007 to show up, the surgically repaired Francis is still very much capable of bringing a veteran presence to the rotation that should instill confidence in the team that he will be able to go out and get guys out.
Francis is never going to be the dominant pitcher that he was, but his mindset and ability to stay calm and get outs with runners on base may be just what the Rockies needed to get on a hot streak.
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