Ubaldo Jimenez has done more than his part to make up for his teammate’s struggles.
After a Wednesday night rainout, the Rockies will send Francis and Jimenez to the mound for a day-night doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Thursday at Coors Field.
Francis (3-7, 5.67 ERA) won 17 games last season and two more in the playoffs to help Colorado capture its first NL pennant, but didn’t earn his first win of 2008 until May 18. The left-hander gave up 11 hits and five runs in six innings of his last start June 28, and went on the disabled list four days later with left shoulder inflammation.
Once healthy, Francis was sharp at Double-A Tulsa, allowing one run while striking out 19 in 14 1-3 innings over three starts in preparation for his return to the majors.
“He feels healthy, he feels prepared, everything that Jeff always brings to the table,” Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said after Wednesday’s postponement. “He was looking forward to today, now it’s just delayed.”
Francis is 1-0 with a 5.29 ERA in three career starts against Washington - all Colorado victories.
While he hasn’t been able to lead the Rockies (52-63) back into postseason contention, Jimenez (8-9, 3.61) has helped the club withstand Francis’ struggles. The right-hander opened the season 1-6 with a 5.43 ERA in his first 13 starts, but has gone 7-3 with a 1.87 ERA in his last 11.
“I knew I was doing bad, but I never stopped believing that I had major league stuff and could give my team a chance to win,” he said. “It was a matter of putting it together.”
Jimenez held Florida to two hits and struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings of a 5-2 victory Friday, improving to 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break.
“We’re seeing him grow,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s making positive strides. Every time out we’re seeing something a little bit different.”
Jimenez, who’s 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the Nationals, has pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings spanning his last two starts, and has allowed one run in 22 innings over his last three outings.
That’s bad news for the Nationals (42-71), who still have the majors’ worst record despite a four-game win streak that included a victory Monday in the opener of this four-game series. That run was snapped, though, after the Rockies scored six times in the eighth inning to beat the Nationals 8-2 on Tuesday night.
Washington batted .381 (16-for-42) with runners in scoring position during its win streak, but went 0-for-6 in such situations Tuesday.
The Nationals hope to get back on track by handing the ball to Odalis Perez (4-8, 4.16) for Thursday’s opener. The left-hander limited Cincinnati to one run and three hits in a season-high 7 1-3 innings of a 5-2 win Friday.
Perez is 3-5 with a 6.93 ERA in nine career starts at Coors Field, where he hasn’t pitched since July 5, 2005 - also his last start against the Rockies.
Jason Bergmann (1-8, 4.33) will take the mound for Washington in the nightcap. The right-hander was tagged for six runs in six innings of Washington’s 10-6 win over Cincinnati on Saturday - the team’s third win in his 16 starts.
Bergmann’s only previous start against Colorado came in 2006, when he gave up five runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 10-5 defeat.