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Francis roughed up by Royals

Francis roughed up by Royals

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KANSAS CITY -- Jeff Francis was the one the Rockies could count on. He'd been a sure thing in Interleague Play, especially this year.

Check the numbers. Francis came into Monday's 8-4 loss to the Royals boasting a 3.90 ERA in 14 appearances against American League teams. He had just given up one run against Cleveland a week ago.

Now check his numbers against the Royals -- 1.88 ERA in two appearances before Monday.

With that pedigree, it seemed Francis would've rolled, but the opposite happened as Colorado lost the series opener at Kauffman Stadium with Francis lasting just 4 1/3 innings and giving up four runs in the first.

"I just let things get out of hand," he said.

Some problems don't go away. Francis and the Rockies found that out Monday night. In recent games, Francis had ditched his first-inning problem, the one that bothered him throughout the beginning of this season. He'd given up 15 first-inning runs in his first 13 appearances but none in his last two starts.

All the bad memories came back on Monday, maybe worse. Francis got shelled. It started with a leadoff triple by David DeJesus, who scored on a Mike Aviles double. When Mark Teahen belted a three-run homer after Francis walked a batter then got two outs, it was 4-0.

Francis said he feels the same in the first in every outing. Nothing seems different when he performs poorly to start the game or when he does well except that he's not throwing quality pitches. He can't figure it out the cause.

"If I did I'd probably nip it in the bud," Francis said, "and it wouldn't happen anymore."

While Francis struggled, Royals starter Brian Bannister worked on what had to have been one of the strangest no-hitters in baseball history. Colorado couldn't muster a hit against him through 4 2/3 innings, but he'd walked six batters.

"It was either on the corner," left fielder Matt Holliday said about Bannister's pitches, "or it was off the plate."

By the time Jeff Baker finally broke up the no-hit attempt in the fifth, Bannister had already thrown 84 pitches. Baker's hit also broke up the shutout as Clint Barmes scored on the single. Holliday followed with a two-run homer, his ninth.

Key double plays by Kansas City prevented Colorado from causing any more problems. The Rockies had the bases loaded in the second, but Clint Barmes grounded into a double play. Another happened in the fifth when Alex Gordon tagged out Chris Iannetta at third on a grounder, then threw to first for another out.

"You give up eight runs," Holliday said, "it's hard to win. We probably didn't hit enough, but you can't give up eight runs and try to win."

His troubles continued into the fifth when he gave up consecutive doubles to Jose Guillen and Miguel Olivo that accounted for two more runs. Francis also gave up a home run to Guillen in the third.

Remember that nice 1.88 ERA coming into Monday against the Royals? Now it's 4.82.

"It's his fastball command more than anything else," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We keep thinking we get it headed in the right direction and we have an outing like this where it spins back the other way. Its challenging to him, it's challenging to Bob [Apodaca], it's challenging to all of us that are trying to help him get better."

When Francis left the game in the fifth, he stayed in the dugout, forgoing an ice pack on the shoulder and a comfortable seat in the clubhouse. He felt he owed it to the team to stay out there for this one.

"It's frustration," Francis said. "It's a lot of things. Just trying to do something different."

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

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