Francis gets first win as Rockies beat Twins
DENVER – Jeff Francis finally got his first win of the season, but it wasn’t easy.Francis pitched out of early trouble and Todd Helton homered and drove in three runs, helping the Colorado Rockies beat the Minnesota Twins 6-2 Sunday in the rubber match of their three-game series.Colorado has won two in a row after dropping six straight. It was Francis’ first win in nine starts this season.”Everybody likes to win a game,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “For our starting pitcher, the guy who threw opening day, it’s got to feel good. And he earned it.”Francis (1-4) struck out seven in 6 1-3 innings for his first regular-season win since Sept. 23 at San Diego. In his previous three starts in May, Francis was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA – including giving up eight runs and 13 hits in 4 2-3 innings during his last start at Arizona.”When you’re not getting it done, you’re trying to find a reason for it,” he said. “I think I did a little better today.”Francis spent the early part of the game pitching out of trouble. He gave up a leadoff double to Brendan Harris in the first and stranded him there. In the second, Michael Cuddyer led off with a triple to center, but Mike Redmond popped out to first, Howie Clark hit a soft liner to short and Kevin Slowey popped out to second.Delmon Young hit a one-out triple in the third, but Craig Monroe struck out and Justin Morneau grounded out to first to end yet another threat.”I felt like I was making good pitches,” said Francis, who won 17 games last season. “They were hitting the odd pitch for an extra-base hit. I felt like I could get out of the inning. Fortunately, I did.”He settled down after that, and his only mistake was a 3-2 fastball to Morneau that turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit.”That was just man-on-man and he tomahawked one,” Hurdle said of Morneau.The Rockies, who led 1-0 on Clint Barmes’ homer in the third, got the runs back in their half of the sixth, starting with Helton’s two-out solo homer off Slowey (0-4). Garret Atkins doubled and after Brad Hawpe walked, Jeff Baker singled up the middle to make it 3-2. Matt Guerrier relieved Slowey and got Chris Iannetta to fly out and end the inning.The Twins, who have lost five of their last sixth, gave the Rockies plenty of help.Minnesota committed three errors and six pitchers combined to walk five batters, including a bases-loaded walk to reliever Taylor Buchholz in the seventh that gave Colorado a 6-2 lead. Helton got the only hit in the inning, a two-run single on the first pitch by Dennys Reyes.”I figured he was going to throw a sinker to get a double play,” Helton said. “I’ve swung the bat so bad lately, I figured I was going to let it go, and was glad I got a good result.”The hits weren’t as disappointing for Minnesota as the walks and errors.”A disappointing baseball game,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Walking guys in big situations, dropping throws to first base. I don’t know how you prepare for all of those things. We’re not used to seeing it. It’s embarrassing to this organization. All I can hope for is that we have a little performance when we get home.”Gardenhire felt his team helped Francis earn his first win.”He tried to throw the balls in the dirt and we just kept swinging” he said. “I credit him for him keeping doing it. If we’re going to swing at it, just keep throwing it down there.”Notes: Barmes extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his first-inning single. … Since 2006, the Twins are 28-11 in Interleague play and the Rockies are 23-13. … Twins OF Carlos Gomez sat out his second straight game with an injured right wrist. Gomez injured the wrist making the catch for the final out of Minnesota’s win Friday night. … The Twins and Rockies combined for three home runs Sunday. Neither team hit a homer in the first two games of the series.
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