Francis looks to win his fifth straight decision and help the Rockies inch closer to .500 on Friday night when they open a three-game interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Coming off six consecutive losing seasons, the Rockies (29-31) didn’t enter 2007 with very high expectations. Colorado appeared headed for another long year with an 18-27 record through May 21, but has reeled off 11 wins in its last 15 contests to pull within two games of .500.
On Thursday, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning, then singled home the winning run to cap a three-run rally in the ninth as the Rockies beat Houston 7-6.
“I only know one way to play, and that’s to give everything when I’m in the lineup,” said Tulowitzki, who leads NL rookies with 26 RBIs. “I want to make every play and be a tough out on every at-bat.”
One of the keys to Colorado’s recent success has been Francis (5-4, 3.70 ERA), one of the league’s best pitchers over the past month.
He has won three straight starts and four consecutive decisions while pitching at least seven innings in each of his last seven outings.
The left-hander improved to 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his last six starts with a strong performance Saturday in a 4-1 victory over Cincinnati. He limited the Reds to one run and five hits in seven innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.
“His command has been top shelf without allowing a lot of hard contact,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s been ahead in most counts and when he’s behind, he gets a lot of 2-0 outs.”
Francis gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 4-2 loss at Baltimore on June 19, 2005, in his only career appearance against the Orioles.
Left fielder Matt Holliday has also played a big role lately for Colorado. He had four hits Thursday and is batting .419 (26-for-62) with 13 RBIs during a 15-game hitting streak to raise his overall average to a league-best .361.
Baltimore (28-32) followed a season-best six-game win streak with five consecutive losses, then ended the skid with a 9-5 victory Wednesday at Seattle.
“It’s a funny game. You never know what to expect,” Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. “It would have been a tremendously long trip (with a loss) going home. This shortens it a bit.”
The Orioles have a winning record in only two of the 10 previous seasons of interleague play and are 73-102 overall, the second-worst record in the majors.
Baltimore has split six games all-time against Colorado, winning two of three last season.
Steve Trachsel (4-4, 3.89) hopes to rebound from his worst start of the season and continue his strong pitching at Camden Yards. The right-hander lasted only three innings Saturday in a 7-4 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels, allowing five runs, five hits and four walks. He had surrendered three earned runs or fewer in each of his eight previous outings.
Trachsel, who is 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA in four home starts, has issued 35 walks this season, third-most in the AL.
He has won four straight starts against the Rockies, and is 10-6 with a 4.50 ERA in 21 career games against them.