The Colorado Rockies finished their longest homestand of the season with a 9-7 loss to the San Diego Padres. A win would have vaulted the hot Rockies into a tie for first in the National League West with the Padres heading into the All-Star break. Instead, the Rockies finish the first half 10 games over .500. They are tied for the Wild Card lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The homestand was more than the Rockies could have ever asked for. They took 3-of-4 from the Giants, then swept the Cardinals in a three game set and took 2-of-3 from San Diego. There isn't a team in the league that wouldn't be thrilled with an 8-2 homestand.
The club enters the All-Star break as the hottest team in baseball, but they must continue their good play as they enter a 10 game stretch on the road, starting with three games against the NL Central leading Cincinnati Reds.
Despite a great homestand, Sunday's game a question to the table that must be asked. Is Jeff Francis ever going to return to form?
It is fair to give the lefty a flier. He is coming off of inactivity for over a full season and it takes time to build shoulder strength back, so there should be some leeway. However, the Rockies are clearly in the thick of things, as evidenced by their recent run.
The expectations for Jeff Francis were not that he would return to his ace form. Shoulder surgeries and pitchers don't mix well. At best, Francis will be a middle of the rotation kind of guy. He most likely will never win 17 games again.
The problem is that Francis has been back in the rotation for seven weeks now. After looking very good in his first few starts he has faltered greatly. In fact, hidden by the Rockies recent run of success has been a skyrocketing ERA from the lefty. After Sunday's poor five inning performance, Francis has an ERA at 5.14. An ERA in the low fours is very acceptable for Francis, but when it creeps above 5.00 his is in big trouble.
If the Rockies want to make a run at the division title, they are going to need Francis to pitch not like he did in 2007, but well enough to keep his team in the game so that they can win a few games here and there. If he cannot do that, the club may be forced to make some difficult decisions.
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