The veteran left-hander tries to lead the Rockies to a sixth consecutive win in the opener of a home set against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
After missing the entire 2009 season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Francis (1-0, 0.68 ERA) is throwing the ball like the pitcher who won 17 games during Colorado’s run to the World Series in 2007.
Francis earned his first victory since Sept. 25, 2008, after he allowed five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-0 win at Kansas City in his second start Saturday.
“I feel like I’m throwing the ball as well as I can,” said Francis, who’s given up one run and 12 hits in 13 1-3 innings since coming off a season-opening stint on the disabled list May 16. “I’m spotting my fastball well and throwing my off-speed pitch for strikes and for the most part keeping the hitters off balance.”
Francis’ latest victory began Colorado’s current winning streak that reached five games Thursday with an 8-2 victory over Arizona, completing a three-game home sweep.
The Rockies (25-22) hope to continue their success while trying for better results against Los Angeles after they lost two of three at Dodger Stadium from May 7-9. Having Francis and his 5-3 record with a 2.73 ERA in 14 starts against the Dodgers could help.
Colorado hopes to stay hot after scoring 15 runs in the last two games and hitting 11 home runs in its last four.
Seth Smith(notes), Carlos Gonzalez(notes) and Ryan Spilborghs(notes) hit consecutive homers in the seventh inning, and Troy Tulowitzki(notes) also went deep Thursday for the Rockies, who’ve outscored the opposition 32-14 during their winning streak.
“We’re definitely playing better,” said Tulowitzki, who’s homered four times in five games. “We’re playing defense, pitching a little better and getting some timely hitting, mixed in with some power.”
Tulowitzki is batting .357 with five homers and nine RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak. He’s 4 for 7 against the Dodgers in 2010.
Though Los Angeles is 17-7 in May, it’s looking to bounce back after losing two of three at Chicago. Among the major league leaders in runs (232) and batting average (.271), the Dodgers were shut out twice against the Cubs, including 1-0 on Thursday.
The Rockies won’t have to deal with Los Angeles’ Andre Ethier(notes), who’s batting .392 with 11 homers but is not expected to come off the disabled list from a broken finger until Monday at the earliest.
“He’ll play (with Triple-A Albuquerque in Memphis) Friday and Saturday, maybe take Sunday off and be available in the early part of the week,” manager Joe Torre told the Dodgers’ official website.
The rookie right-hander allowed one run and three hits in four innings of his first start against Pittsburgh on May 1 before leaving without a decision.
“I like starting,” said the rookie right-hander, who has made 11 of his 12 appearances in relief.
He gave up a run and three hits in two innings in an 8-0 loss to the Rockies on May 8.