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Stults gives Padres another stellar start

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Eric Stults has found new life with the San Diego Padres. Jeff Francis is hoping to extend his with the Colorado Rockies.

The veteran left-handers opposed each other Saturday night, and the matchup was one-sided. Stults, 33, stayed on a roll in the Padres' 4-2 win and Francis, 32, coming off the disabled list, showed the effects of not being on a big-league mound for almost a month.

Stults spent the 2011 season in the Colorado organization and made six forgettable relief appearances for the Rockies in the middle of the season. But he has become a dependable starter for the Padres since he joined them in May 2012 when he was claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox.

Stults limited the Rockies to two runs, one earned, with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings. It was his third straight start and fourth time in five outings that he went seven or more innings. In his past eight starts since May 2, Stults has gone 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA.

"That's what he's done in the big picture with us, even going back to last year," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Four-pitch mix. Fastball to both sides of the plate. Off-speed down below the zone. Disrupts timing, keeps hitters off balance."

Stults, who has worked 22 consecutive innings without issuing a walk, said his tempo has been good in recent starts, aiding his ability to execute pitches. He had a 5.75 ERA in nine previous appearances at Coors Field, three in his brief stay with the Rockies, but had learned the hard way that trying to be too fine there won't work.

"The key to pitching in a place like this is not falling behind and trying to limit your walks and make them put it in play," Stults said. "This is a place where you've got to pitch to contact, and that's what I tried to do today."

Francis was activated Saturday and made his first start for the Rockies since May 14, when he suffered a strained left groin. He wasn't hit hard, but his inability to put hitters away caused him to throw 93 pitches and leave after yielding four runs, six hits and three walks in four innings.

The Padres scored three runs against Francis in the fourth. After Jedd Gyroko led off with a double that bounded against the left-field wall, Kyle Blanks drove a changeup off the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer. With the ball in flight, Francis was leaning, seemingly trying to guide the ball foul with body English.

"I was talking to it, trying to make it stay fair," Blanks said. "So I think I might've been talking louder than he was leaning."

Francis sandwiched two walks around two strikeouts, and Evereth Cabrera blooped a run-scoring double into short left field to put the Padres ahead 4-1.

"I didn't feel rusty at all," Francis said. "In fact, I felt probably as good as I've felt all season physically. They fouled of some tough pitches and waited for me to make some mistakes, and they took advantage of it there the fourth inning. That translated into too long an inning for me. I wasn't able to bet out of as quickly as I could."

Before Gyorko's double, Francis had retired eight of the previous nine batters, including the final two in a 31-pitch first inning.

Francis stranded runners at first and second in the first and only allowed one run. Cabrera drew a one-walk out, stole his 27th stolen base of the season and scored when Chase Headley grounded a single to right.

Carlos Quentin followed with another ground single, but Francis got Gyroko to fly out and Blanks to foul out.

The Rockies tied the score at 1 in third on catcher Yasmani Grandal's throwing error. With runners at first and third and one out, Carlos Gonzalez struck out as Eric Young Jr. took off for second base. Grandal's throw sailed into center field, enabling Young to steal second and Dexter Fowler to score from third.

The Rockies went 0-for15 with runners in scoring position. They left the tying runs at second and third in the ninth against Luke Gregerson, who filled in for injured closer Huston Street and picked up his second save. With one out, Tyler Colvin just missed tying the score when he lined out to Gyroko at second.

"That'll make your heart stop for a second," Gregerson said.

He then attacked Dexter Fowler with "a healthy dose of sliders" and struck him out on one that was perfectly placed down and in.

NOTES: To make room on the roster for Francis (left groin strain), the Rockies designated RHP Jon Garland for assignment. In 12 starts, Garland went 4-6 with a 5.82 ERA. ... The Rockies recalled Colvin from Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he hit .293 (56-for-191) with eight doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 29 RBI and 42 runs scored in 55 games. Colvin spent the entire 2012 season with the Rockies and hit .290 with 18 homers and 72 RBI in 136 games but began the season at Colorado Springs after going 8-for-48 with one RBI in spring training. To make room on the roster for Colvin, LHP Josh Outman was optioned to Colorado Springs. After starting the season there, Outman was recalled April 19 and went 2-0 with a 4.94 ERA in 19 games with seven walks and 26 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. ... Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood threw a light bullpen session that lasted 22 pitches and said his right triceps felt fine. He had strained the triceps in a start on Monday. Chatwood is scheduled to throw a more intense bullpen session and possibly face hitters on Tuesday. If that goes well, he could return to the rotation after missing just one start. ... The Padres recalled RHP Burch Smith from Triple-A Tucson and optioned RHP Brad Boxberger to Triple-A. Boxberger threw two scoreless innings on Friday in San Diego's 10-9 loss but wouldn't have been available to pitch Saturday or Sunday. The Padres needed a fresh arm in their bullpen. Smith went 0-1 with an 18.41 ERA in three starts for the Padres earlier this season and 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA after being optioned to Tucson. He was scheduled to start Saturday but was recalled because the Padres bullpen had been taxed and needed someone who could give them length. ... Cabrera has had six straight multi-hit games, the first San Diego player to accomplish that feat since Edgar Gonzalez in 2008. Cabera tied his career-high with a nine-game hitting streak. ... The Rockies drafted SS Brody Weiss in the 22nd round out of Regis Jesuit High School in the Denver area. He is the son of Rockies manager Walt Weiss and is signed to play at UC Santa Barbara. In the 24th round, the Rockies drafted RHP Hunter Brothers out of Lipscomb. He is the brother of Rockies LHP Rex Brothers, who also went to Lipscomb.
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