Blanks' 2-run homer helps Padres to 4-2 win

PAT GRAHAM (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) -- Once he hit the ball down the left-field line, Kyle Blanks began talking to it in an attempt to keep it fair.

On the mound and watching the ball soar toward the stands, Jeff Francis started leaning in an effort to push it foul.

''I think I might've been talking louder than he was leaning,'' Blanks said.

Blanks hit a two-run homer that caromed off the foul screen and Eric Stults tossed seven solid innings, helping the San Diego Padres to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.

For Blanks, this was another memorable night at Coors Field. The powerful first baseman is having quite a series, going 6 for 11 with two homers and five RBIs.

And to think he almost didn't make the trip to the Mile High City. He was headed for the minors before the Padres had a late change of plans when infielder Yonder Alonso went on the disabled list.

''Getting good pitches to hit. Haven't been missing too many,'' Blanks said of his recent success. ''That's typically how anyone gets quite a few hits.''

For Francis (2-4), that misplaced changeup may end up costing him more than a game. The soft-tossing lefty is auditioning to keep his spot in the rotation, especially with veteran Roy Oswalt throwing well for Double-A Tulsa. This didn't exactly cement Francis' place.

''I'm not sitting here talking about what's going to happen next week,'' manager Walt Weiss said when asked about Francis remaining in the rotation. ''We'll see what happens.''

Francis struggled in his first start since coming off the disabled list with a strained left groin. He allowed four runs and six hits in four innings.

''I don't think I was rusty,'' Francis said.

Everth Cabrera had three hits, including a bloop RBI double, and stole two more bases, running his season total to a major league-leading 28.

Stults (5-5) never really ran into trouble against his former team, giving up seven hits and two runs (one earned) for his first win in four starts.

Dale Thayer pitched out of a jam in the eighth and Luke Gregerson closed out the ninth for his second save in three chances.

It was far from a routine save, though, as Gregerson had runners on second and third with one out, only to get Tyler Colvin to line out to second and then struck out Dexter Fowler to end the game.

''That line drive? That will make your heart stop for a second,'' Gregerson said. ''Once we had two outs, I went right after Fowler with a healthy dose of sliders.''

The Rockies were 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position. That kind of futility doesn't happen all too often to one of the top-hitting teams in the NL.

''You can't expect to win when you leave so many guys on base,'' said Carlos Gonzalez, who was hitless in four at-bats and struck out twice. ''Tonight was just a bad game. You have to forget about it.''

Up 4-2 in the ninth, the Padres had a chance to pad their lead when they loaded the bases with two outs. But Nolan Arenado made a magnificent play at third base, snaring Cameron Maybin's slow roller with his bare hand and throwing him out at first base.

The Rockies couldn't carry over the momentum.

''We just didn't get the big hit tonight,'' Weiss said. ''They did a pretty good job of getting through some things.''

One of the Rockies' runs came courtesy of a throwing error and the other when Colvin grounded out in the seventh following D.J. LeMahieu's one-out triple. Colvin was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier in the day and entered the game as part of a double-switch.

Stults nearly escaped a jam in the third when the Rockies had runners at first and third with one out. He struck out Gonzalez, but catcher Yasmani Grandal overthrew second with Eric Young Jr. stealing, allowing Fowler to trot home.

He was pretty much in control the rest of the way.

''I've been feeling pretty good on the mound,'' said Stults, who briefly pitched for the Rockies in 2011. ''Just like a hitter, you kind of get a groove going. The last few starts, I feel like I have a good tempo. I've felt good about the way I've been throwing the ball.''

San Diego scored a run in the first when Chase Headley singled in Cabrera, who walked and stole second. Headley was back in the lineup after leaving the game Friday with tightness in his right calf after being hit by a pitch.

Michael Cuddyer missed his second straight game with sore ribs. The outfielder is hoping he will be healed in a few days and won't have to go on the disabled list for a second time this season.

NOTES: The Padres recalled RHP Burch Smith from Triple-A Tucson and optioned RHP Brad Boxberger. ... The Rockies drafted SS Brody Weiss, the son of manager Walt Weiss, in the 22nd round. Brody Weiss is committed to play next year at UC Santa Barbara. ''Guess I'll have to negotiate with the Rockies in the next couple of weeks here,'' Walt Weiss said, smiling. ... Rockies closer Rex Brothers had his brother Hunter, a right-hander out of Lipscomb University in Tennessee, drafted by Colorado in the 24th round. ... To make room for Francis, the team designated RHP Jon Garland for assignment. ... The Rockies wore camouflage caps for Military Appreciation Day.

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