|Jeff Francis sliced and diced his way through the Padres.|
The crafty lefty showed during Friday's home opener at Coors Field that his dominant spring training was no fluke. He used his 85 MPH fastball and his slow, big-breaking off-speed pitches, to lull the San Diego Padres to sleep.
In all, Francis pitched six innings, giving up one run on five hits. He struck out five and walked only one. His six innings of work came on 97 pitches, 63 of which were strikes. The only run Francis gave up came in the 1st inning after Evereth Cabrera reached on an infield single, stole second base, then scored on a soft single to left field from Jesus Guzman.
After the 1st inning run, Francis settled in and gave the Rockies offense time to figure out Padres starter Jason Marquis' sinker, tie the game, then eventually take the lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
When the Rockies re-signed Francis in the offseason, no one was calling the move a game-changer. Most thought it couldn't hurt, but that his ability to stabilize the rotation was questionable at best. Of course, the game on Friday is just one game, but fans should be optimistic about Francis.
What Francis showed on Friday was exactly what it takes to be successful at Coors Field. Instead of trying to blow batters away, he pitches to contact and isn't afraid of the ball being put into play. In 2007, the lefty would consistently hit 90 MPH on his fastball, with the ability to go and get 92 if he needed it. Those days are behind Francis. However, he still knows how to pitch. He isn't going out there and hoping for the best, he is pitching smart, which helps him overcome his lack of velocity.
In four games, the Rockies have yet to have a starting pitcher give them a performance they couldn't overcome. Four games is a small sample size, but the Rockies could have much more success than most people predicted if they are able to make this style of pitching become a trend.
The pitching was good, but the Rockies offense is showing that they have the firepower to overcome a few bad starts on the mound.
Suddenly, this Rockies offense looks very much like the Blake Street Bombers clubs that new hitting coach Dante Bichette was a part of in the late 90's. In the 4th inning, Wilin Rosario stepped to the plate and drilled a Marquis pitch on a line into the left field seats. The next inning, Dexter Fowler launched a no-doubter off of the facade of the right field mezzanine.
The fact is, this Rockies team can hit. If Fowler can hit for power, as he has displayed in the first four games, this team could easily have six players who hit 20 or more home runs. Their is no weak spot in the lineup and there is no spot that can easily be pitched around. The Rockies are going to be tough, even when a good pitcher is on the mound.
Four games into a season is far too early to make any conclusions, but after a 98-loss campaign a year ago, fans will gladly take a quick start from a team that looked lifeless most of the 2012 summer.
The Rockies go for the series victory on Saturday night, with Jon Garland taking the ball in his first start in a Colorado uniform.
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