Rockies 9, Phillies 2

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DENVER (AP)—Jeff Francis got a win, stopped a losing streak and proved once again that he is the biggest success story of Colorado’s difficult season.

Dustan Mohr had a double and a homer in Colorado’s nine-run fifth inning Sunday and Francis matched his career high with eight strikeouts to help the Rockies snap a four-game losing streak with a 9-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

“He’s doing more than just holding his own,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said of his rookie pitcher. “He’s taking steps forward, making it toward the top of the rotation, no doubt.”

Francis (10-7) became the first NL rookie to reach 10 victories this season, allowing four hits and no runs over six innings. He improved to 8-2 this year at Coors Field, puncturing the myth that nobody can have consistent success at such a hitter-friendly ballpark.

This win was especially important because it snapped a losing streak before the Rockies head back onto the road, where their 10-40 record is the worst through 50 games since the 1979 Oakland A’s.

“It was a bit of a big game,” Francis said. “We’d lost four in a row. Nobody wants a losing streak.”

The Rockies put the game out of reach by matching their biggest inning of the season—nine runs and eight hits—off Jon Lieber (9-10) in the fifth.

The rally began when the Phillies chose to pitch to the No. 8 hitter, J.D. Closser, with runners on second and third and one out. Closser, a .217 hitter this season, came through with an RBI single to make it 1-0.

“I wanted to go after him,” Lieber said. “I felt like my pitch counts were down, and that I could make good pitches. I never regret a decision like that. He did what he had to do in the at-bat.”

Francis followed with an RBI single to score Mohr, who had reached earlier on a double. Garrett Atkins had a bases-clearing double to make it 6-0.

The Rockies batted around and Mohr homered to left-center on his second at-bat to make it 9-0 and signal the end for Lieber. Lieber allowed nine runs and nine hits—both season highs—in 4 2-3 innings and his ERA rose from 4.69 to 5.12.

“If we get out of that inning only giving up three runs, then we still have a shot in the ballgame,” Lieber said. “But we came out down 9-0, it’s hard for the guys to be positive and I take all the blame for that.”

Playing in place of the injured Todd Helton, Ryan Shealy also had two hits in the big inning.

Closser, a rookie whose future is in jeopardy after the Rockies tried and failed to acquire another catcher before the trading deadline, added a double in the sixth.

“You can’t dwell on talk,” Closser said. “Until something is done, you show up and play.”

The rebuilding Rockies, with the worst record in the major leagues, avoided being swept in a four-game series at home for just the third time since Coors Field opened in 1995.

By winning their first three in Denver, the Phillies salvaged a decent road trip, winding up 3-4 after three straight losses in Houston.

But they weren’t really competitive in the finale.

Lieber and Jason Michaels each had singles in the third to give them two on with two outs. But Francis struck out Bobby Abreu to end that threat and the Phillies didn’t come close to scoring again until the eighth, when David Bell hit a two-run double off Dan Miceli to make it 9-2.

“The fifth inning, some things started to happen and we couldn’t stop it,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’ve seen it before here.”

Eight of the first 11 outs Francis recorded were on strikeouts. He left after six innings, once his pitch count reached 111.

“Eight strikeouts is going to make you throw more pitches,” Hurdle said. “But the strikeout is a pretty good play in this park. We’ll take it.”

Notes

The Phillies, in the market for a left-handed starter to fit into a rotation filled with five right-handers, didn’t make a deal before the deadline. “I don’t think we walked away from anything that we will regret,” general manager Ed Wade said. … Rockies SS Omar Quintanilla had his first major league hit in the fifth. … Colorado’s recently acquired OF Larry Bigbie arrived to Coors Field about an hour before gametime Sunday, but didn’t play.

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