With two series at Coors Field against teams with losing records this week, the Colorado Rockies had a good chance to boost their playoff chances. So far, they’ve failed to take advantage.
Coming off their most disappointing home series in three months, the Rockies have an opportunity to rebound quickly as they face the lowly Washington Nationals on Friday night in the opener of a three-game set.
Colorado (64-63) has one of the majors’ best home records at 36-26, but lost three of four to Pittsburgh at Coors Field to fall 7 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the NL West and 4 1/2 back of San Diego for the wild card.
Thursday’s 5-1 defeat to the Pirates, owners of the NL’s worst record, saddled the Rockies with their first series loss at home since dropping two of three to Kansas City from May 18-20.
Colorado now turns to Jeff Francis (13-6, 4.38 ERA) - the team leader in wins - as it tries to bounce back against Washington (58-70), which has won three of four after losing four straight.
“I think every game’s a must-win for us,” Francis told the team’s official Web site. “We didn’t do a good job this (past) series. We’ve got to put it behind us and get ready to play.”
Francis lost his first three decisions of the season at Coors Field, but has gone 6-0 with a 3.41 ERA in his last nine starts there. He pitched on the road Sunday and did not get a decision, yielding two runs and six hits while striking out seven in six innings of a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The left-hander is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts—both last season—against Washington.
Francis has gotten only one run to work with in his last two starts, and Colorado has totaled just three runs in its last two games overall. The Rockies went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position Thursday.
Matt Holliday, though, went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He is the only player in the majors this season with four hitting streaks spanning 10 games or more.
Washington, meanwhile, is in one of its best stretches at the plate this season, scoring 27 runs during a four-game series with Houston. Ronnie Belliard hit a two-run homer, and Austin Kearns had three hits to help the Nationals to a 7-6 win over the Astros in the series finale Thursday night.
Kearns has adjusted his stance and has been Washington’s hottest hitter over the past seven games, batting .519 (14-for-27) to raise his season average from .247 to .262.
“His swing has got some freedom and looseness in it now,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “His hands were just too close to his head. He made the adjustment and now it’s just about getting his timing back with the new stance.”
Kearns’ worst game at the plate over the past seven games was during teammate Shawn Hill’s last start, when the right fielder went 0-for-4 in an 8-2 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday. Hill (3-3, 2.43 ERA), who will get the ball Friday, allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings against the Mets and did not get a decision.
The promising right-hander has yielded two earned runs or less in nine of his 10 starts. This will be his first appearance against the Rockies.
The Nationals won three of four home games against the Rockies from July 19-22, but Colorado has won four straight at home against Washington since a 9-2 loss on Aug. 14, 2005.