Francis twirls five shutout innings against Reds

Francis twirls five shutout innings against Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis pitched five scoreless innings and Todd Helton went deep for his first home run of the spring as the Rockies claimed a 5-1 win over the Reds on Friday night at Goodyear Ballpark.

Francis, who has blanked his opponents in 18 of his 19 innings this spring, allowed four hits and three strikeouts in the win. He has a 1.96 ERA this spring in five outings.

The Reds' only extra-base hit against Francis was a two-out double to center field by Neftali Soto in the first inning. Soto exited the game after the inning because of a mild quadriceps strain.

"I think I got away with a few the first couple of innings and I was overthrowing a bit," Francis said. "But my last two innings, especially, I was really sharp."

Last year, Francis was with the Reds under a Minor League deal and pitched well enough to earn a job. However, there wasn't room for him in Cincinnati, and he eventually returned to the Rockies. He is pitching even better this spring.

"My job is to get people out. Whether I do that here or in the season, if I can do that, I'm satisfied."

Reds ace Johnny Cueto was the first on his team to reach six innings this spring. Cueto allowed three runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He was slated to go five innings but his pitch count allowed for a sixth.

"I feel good. I felt strong," Cueto said. "I worked on my breaking pitch [in the sixth]."

Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Cueto. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a double to right-center field and scored from third base on Carlos Gonzalez's groundout to second base.

Cueto had retired a stretch of eight in a row until Michael Cuddyer hit a single on the ground into left field in the top of the fourth. Up next was Helton, who sent a first pitch from Cueto over the fence in right-center field for a two-run homer, his first in eight Cactus League at-bats this year.

"It doesn't take long for a hero like Todd to get ready, doesn't take many at-bats," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's been sweet-swinging for a long time."In the seventh inning, Ben Paulsen kept the Rockies in command with a two-out, two-run homer against Armando Gallaraga.

The Reds did not reach the scoreboard until the eighth inning against right-hander Bobby Cassevah, when Derrick Robinson tripled to right field to score Bryson Smith. Cassevah had been struck in a leg by a line drive in the seventh inning before leaving in the eighth.

Up next: The Rockies return to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Saturday afternoon to face the Mariners, with lefty Drew Pomeranz -- whose early spring effectiveness has him the front-runner for the fifth rotation spot -- starting. Roster hopeful Manny Corpas also is scheduled to pitch in a game with live coverage on Gameday Audio.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.