All of a sudden, Torii Hunter appears to be turning the clock back five years.
The Colorado Rockies desperately wish they could do the same.
To that end, the Rockies will summon Jeff Francis to the mound to rejoin the team he helped lead to the 2007 World Series as slumping Colorado continues its weekend series against Hunter and the visiting Los Angeles Angels.
Now 36 years old, Hunter has for most of this season appeared a shadow of the All-Star who drove in a career-high 107 runs and placed 15th in the AL MVP voting for Minnesota in 2007, but may have suddenly found the fountain of youth. He's hit three of his eight home runs this season in his last two games.
After contributing a solo shot to the Angels' 6-1 victory over Seattle on Tuesday, he went 3 for 5 with two homers and six RBIs in Friday night's series-opening 7-2 win over the Rockies. By going 5 for 12 over his last three games, Hunter has raised his season average 15 points to .250.
Hunter was pleased to visit Coors Field for the first time in his 13-year career.
"My whole career I've been trying to get over here to play. I like this stadium," he said. "I used to watch it on TV all the time, all these years and I was wondering if I was going to see this place before I got out of this game."
While Hunter's exploits helped move the Angels (30-29) back above .500 after losing three of their previous four, the Rockies (24-33) continue to sink, losers of three straight behind the undesirable combination of quiet bats and inept starting pitching.
Colorado has been outscored 23-3 during its three-game losing streak, and hasn't scored more than four runs since June 1. After Alex White gave up four runs in six innings Friday, the Rockies' starting rotation ERA rose a single point to 5.85 - more than a run higher than any other NL club. No Colorado starting pitcher has an ERA below 4.50.
After that sort of production, it's small wonder the Rockies are giving another chance to Francis, who went a career-best 17-9 in 2007 to help the Rockies win the only NL pennant in their history. The left-hander had been pitching in the Cincinnati Reds system this season, going 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA for Triple-A Louisville before opting out of his contract earlier this week. Colorado signed him to a minor league deal Thursday.
If the Rockies expect the Francis of several years ago, they may be disappointed. He went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA and .301 opponent batting average in 31 starts for Kansas City in 2011, and is 14-32 in the majors since his 2007 career year.
On the other hand, two of Francis' six wins last season came against the Angels as he improved to 2-0 with a 2.97 ERA in five career starts versus Los Angeles. His 30 wins at Coors Field are tied for third all-time.
Francis will be opposed by Dan Haren (3-6, 3.52), who's given up a total of three runs in his last three starts to lower his ERA by nearly a full run. He got charged with Sunday's 7-3 loss to Texas, though, after yielding two runs and scattering seven hits over five innings.
The right-hander is 6-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 13 career starts against the Rockies.
Colorado slugger Carlos Gonzalez is 6 for 15 with two homers, two doubles, three walks and a .500 on-base percentage off Haren, but Todd Helton is just 4 for 23 (.174) in their matchups.
- Torii Hunter
- Colorado Rockies
- Jeff Francis
- Los Angeles Angels