Rockies-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

If the opener of their current series was any indication, the Colorado Rockies' struggling pitching staff could be in for a long few days in St. Louis.

Jeff Francis, though, hopes to extend his recent success and prevent the Cardinals from handing the Rockies a fourth straight defeat Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

Allen Craig homered twice, Matt Holliday hit his 13th and Carlos Beltran extended his RBI streak to nine games Monday in St. Louis' 9-3 win in the opener of this four-game set. The Cardinals (42-38) have won nine of 11 against the Rockies, outscoring them 38-14 while taking seven of the last eight meetings at home.

St. Louis had 10 hits and drew eight walks Monday against a Colorado staff that has a major league-worst 5.39 ERA.

"When you walk eight guys, you don't give yourself much of a chance to win," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "You just can't do it, that's what it boils down to."

Holliday, the former Colorado outfielder, was 1 for 15 in his six most recent games against his original major league team before going 2 for 3 with a walk Monday. He's batting .500 (28 for 56) with three homers and 16 RBIs in his last 15 games overall.

Craig, meanwhile, is 6 for 16 with four home runs and eight RBIs in his last four contests.

Beltran, who leads the NL with 63 RBIs, has 15 in his last nine games. He's only 3 for 13 against Francis (1-1, 5.47 ERA), who is 5-1 with a 2.85 ERA in nine career starts against the Cardinals.

In his most recent outing versus St. Louis on May 20, 2011, Francis allowed six hits and struck out six in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win for Kansas City.

The veteran left-hander has yielded three runs and one walk over 16 innings while going 1-0 in his last three starts - all Rockies wins. Francis exceeded Tracy's 75-pitch limit for his four-man rotation by tossing 82 in six scoreless innings during a 10-2 victory over San Diego on Friday.

"I used to be able to get a fastball by some guys, which I don't do anymore," said the 31-year-old Francis, who became the first Colorado starter to earn a win since June 4. "I have to find other ways.

"(I'm) just commanding both my curveball and changeup and able to throw them for strikes."

Tyler Colvin hit a two-run homer Monday and All-Star Carlos Gonzalez was one of three players with two hits for the Rockies (30-49), who nonetheless have lost three straight to fall into a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the worst record in the majors.

There have been a few bright spots. Colvin is batting .303 with nine homers in his first year in Colorado - hitting .364 with 11 RBIs in his last nine games - and Wilin Rosario has homered in each of his last three contests to give him 14 for the season, one more than St. Louis' Yadier Molina for the most among NL catchers.

The Rockies get their first look at Joe Kelly (1-0, 3.38), who makes his fifth major league start Monday for the Cardinals.

The right-hander has not allowed more than three runs in any of his outings, most recently giving up two in six innings of a 5-3 loss Wednesday at Miami.

"It looked like he was pitching more and not just relying on just stuff," manager Mike Matheny told the Cardinals' official website.

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