Francis sharp as Rox wash out Giants

Francis sharp as Rockies wash out Giants

DENVER -- The rain that came down on Tuesday night had no regard for Jeff Francis' performance that it interrupted. It's too bad.

A torrential downpour in the top of the sixth put an end to one of Francis' best performances. After a 1 hour, 47 minute delay, the lefty was unable to return, but his Rockies went on to beat San Francisco, 6-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 48,078 -- the second straight sellout at Coors Field.

Many stayed through the rain to catch the Independence Day fireworks show. They also saw the Rockies move into a three-way tie for first place in the National League West with the Padres and Dodgers. This is the latest the Rockies have been atop the division since 1996.

Before the rain, the fans saw a Francis (6-7) mound performance that was just as impressive as the postgame display.

After struggling in his past three starts, Francis had things working. He forced eight ground-ball outs and added a strikeout, keeping the ball down for most of the night.

"It feels really good to have a lot of options out there with what you want to do," said Francis, who gave up a hit and a walk in five innings.

He said his fastball was working well, and that allowed him to use all of his pitches more effectively. In his previous three outings, he had allowed 13 runs on 23 hits.

Francis stayed warm, throwing underneath the stadium for about an hour before he knew his night was done. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said that after about 45 minutes or an hour during a delay, he will shut down his pitcher.

Francis said he wasn't disappointed that he didn't get to finish what he started. The bullpen came through for the Rockies, and his team won, and that's what matters.

"It's a long time for a guy to sit down and come back and keep pitching," Francis said.

For eight innings, it looked as if the Rockies would pick up their eighth shutout of the season, which would have tied the club record, established in 2001 and 2002. But Ramon Ramirez gave up a run in the ninth, ending the bid for the sixth scoreless outing at Coors Field this season.

Tom Martin came in after the delay and held the Giants scoreless for two innings, giving up a hit. This was the fourth straight game he has pitched, but Hurdle said Martin told him he was good to go and could pitch again. Martin has thrown 12 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest stretch of his career.

"That was a needed performance for our club," Hurdle said. The Rockies bullpen was responsible for the team's past three losses.

Jose Mesa followed and didn't allow a run in the eighth.

First baseman Todd Helton once again provided some early fireworks. He homered for the second straight game and 10th time this season in the third. Helton also hit a two-run homer on Monday.

Helton is a game shy of tying the Rockies' team record for consecutive games reaching base safely. With the 428-foot solo shot to right-center, he has reached safely in 34 straight games. Larry Walker set the team record of 35 straight games in '02.

"His game timing has come around," Hurdle said. "He's seeing the ball good. ... He's a big part of what we do."

Third baseman Garrett Atkins followed with a solo homer in the sixth, his 11th of the year. He added a sacrifice fly in the seventh, bringing home the final run.

Four Giants errors helped the Rockies score three of their runs.

Matt Holliday scored on a JD Closser single after reaching on an error and a Francis sacrifice fly knocked in Brad Hawpe in the second. Closser scored on a wild pickoff throw from Giants reliever Jack Taschner in the sixth.

In 2005, the Rockies lost on July 4 to fall to 16 games out of first in the division. They sat in last place, where they were for all but four days last season.

"It beats the heck out of where we were last year at this time," said Hurdle, unaware his team was tied for first until he was told after the game.

The Rockies also have won seven of 10 and have a chance to take their fifth straight series with a win on Wednesday.

A quick afternoon shower delayed the start of the game 13 minutes.

Matthew Borenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.