Francis roughed up in Rox homecoming

Francis roughed up in Rox homecoming

Francis roughed up in Rox homecoming
DENVER -- Marco Scutaro made his equipment pay at the end of the fourth inning. He rifled his bat hard toward the dugout and slammed his helmet after a strikeout that left the bases loaded.

A better outcome and the Rockies just might have made a game of their 11-5 loss to the Angels in Interleague Play on Saturday afternoon at Coors Field in front of 37,801.

But Scutaro's strikeout against Dan Haren (4-6), which included a favorable strike-two call, was only one reason for the Rockies to be frustrated during their fourth straight loss. For the second time this season, the Rockies lost a game in which they hit five home runs, four off Haren, with Tyler Colvin going deep twice.

Saturday's loss came in the return to Colorado of Jeff Francis (0-1), who pitched for the Rockies from 2004-10 and even started Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. The Angels peppered Francis for 10 hits and eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings.

  • 142 wins
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More often than not, the Rockies prove that no matter how much offense they provide, it's never enough to make up for poor pitching. Scutaro hit his third homer of the season in the first inning. Colvin's homer in the second off Haren was his fifth of the season, and he added his sixth in the seventh off Hisanori Takahashi. Carlos Gonzalez went deep for his team-leading 15th against Haren in the fifth. Chris Nelson hit his second of the year to chase Haren with one out in the sixth.

"It's a good way to peck back, those solos," Colvin said. "But every time we got one, they answered back with two or three runs."

As if the Angels were taunting the Rockies for their power, all of the hits off Francis were singles. The Angels' only extra-base hit of their 15 total was Albert Pujols' two-run homer in the sixth off Guillermo Moscoso. The Angels (31-29) moved to three games behind the American League West-leading Rangers, while the Rockies (24-34) are 10 games below .500 for the first time since May 25.

"I don't know what to say," Scutaro said. "The way you win games is by pitching, defense and hitting. Unfortunately, we're not doing that right now. We have to work together as a team, defense and offense."

Francis made 12 starts for Triple-A Louisville before asking the Reds for his release to find a Major League opportunity. The Rockies hope he is the experienced pitcher who can end the team's starting-pitching nightmare. It was not to be on Saturday.

The best that can be said about Francis was he was in the strike zone for 50 of his 74 pitches. The defense, without shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (on the disabled list with a left groin strain) and first baseman Todd Helton (resting), wasn't the best. For example, Colvin overthrowing a cutoff man allowed the Angels to score two first-inning runs instead of one, and the infield didn't have optimum range for a contact pitcher.

But Francis, who spent last season with the Royals (6-16, 4.82 ERA in 183 innings), didn't throw the quality strikes that he's going to have to provide to make a difference.

"I gave up a lot of hits, but I don't think I was hit around hard," Francis said. "A couple of balls that could have gone differently could have turned around some innings for me, but they didn't. I wasn't able to recover from it.

"No matter what team you're on, that's the starter's job, to give the team innings. I feel like I've done that. I did that last year and I did it up to this point [in Triple-A] this year. Today was just a bad one."

The last time the Rockies went deep five times in a game and lost was May 27 at Cincinnati. They reacted by releasing veteran left-handed starter Jamie Moyer. That won't happen with Francis, since he just arrived. But at some point, the starters outside of rookie lefty Christian Friedrich and righty Alex White will have to manage a run of credible starting pitching or the season will continue on its frustrating path.

"Much like we were dealing with over the course of May, in three of the last four days we pitched a total of 9 2/3 innings out of our starter," manager Jim Tracy said. "That's simply not going to work."

The Angels' smart offensive approach has a lot to do with it. Top two hitters, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter, had three hits and three runs apiece, as did No. 6 and No. 7 hitters Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo. Pujols finished with four RBIs.

"We're just hunting for the pitch, putting good swings on it," Trout said. "The approach against [Francis], you have to stay up the middle. You can get hurt if you try to pull the ball, so we made sure to stay short and not do too much."

The Rockies were down, 8-2, when they loaded the bases with one out in the fourth. But Haren worked Dexter Fowler into a weak grounder to Pujols at first, who threw home to cut off a run. Then, Scutaro had his ill-fated at-bat.

"You see the way they play; they got a lot of singles but they stole bases, they moved runners, they drove their guy from third with a sacrifice fly or a ground ball to the middle," Gonzalez said. "And it's always tough to be down by a lot of runs while they continue to score. It's a tough way to play baseball."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.