DENVER -- Despite entering Monday with the worst team ERA in the Majors, Jeff Francis and the Rockies' bullpen combined for a shutout while facing one of the most intimidating lineups in the league at Coors Field. The Rockies won, 10-0, pulling away in a seven-run eighth inning to emphatically demonstrate to the Dodgers that Colorado can compete with any team on the field.
Back in 2007, Francis and Josh Beckett met as the respective aces and Game 1 starters in the World Series. The result was a lopsided 13-1 victory for Beckett and the Red Sox, but when the right-hander returned to the National League in a Dodgers uniform Monday night, the Rockies finished with a much better outcome, matching their season-high margin of victory in the series opener as Francis delivered five scoreless innings.
"It's funny, because it's only five innings," Francis said. "In the world of starting pitchers, it's really nothing to get that excited about. But within our role on this team, it's our job. That's what we go out there to do, so it is very satisfying, but it's weird to stand here and think I did a really good job, because I just threw five innings."
Despite being 23 games under .500, the Rockies are a winning team when they can get five innings out of their starters, and with a 75-pitch limit set when they introduced a four-man rotation, getting through five is an exercise in efficiency.
Tyler Colvin gave Francis all the breathing room he'd need, wasting no time welcoming Beckett back to the NL by driving the second pitch he saw over the right-field fence for a leadoff homer to open the first frame.
"He got ahead with the first one," Colvin said of the at-bat. "After that I'm looking for a good pitch, and he gave me a good fastball to hit. Right off the bat we're able to give Jeff a run early, and he just ran with it and pitched a great game."
Beckett rebounded by retiring the next six in a row, and although he ultimately yielded three runs on seven hits and three walks, the Rockies made Colvin's solo shot stand up, never yielding the lead.
Colorado padded its margin in the fourth when Chris Nelson legged out a two-out triple deep into the left-center alley and scored on DJ LeMahieu's single to center.
"He had good stuff," LeMahieu said of Beckett. "Cutter, two-seam. The curveball kept changing speeds on us. Kind of kept us off balance a little bit. We had a lot of tough outs and kept grinding, and Jeff was a lot of fun to play behind, so we kind of got a little momentum with him pitching so well."
Francis allowed just three hits and a walk. He yielded a two-out double to Matt Kemp in the first, then didn't give up another hit until his final inning on the hill.
"That's [a] tough [lineup]," Francis said. "I knew going into the game I'd have to be a little sharper with my fastball than I've been. I was able to make a few pitches here and there that got some ground-ball outs and kept some guys off the basepaths, which got me through the middle of the order without too much traffic."
The decisive moment for Francis came when he gave up a one-out single to Luis Cruz in the fifth and then a double to A.J. Ellis to put runners in scoring position with Beckett coming to the plate. Francis got Beckett and Shane Victorino swinging for the final two of his six strikeouts.
"Looking back it was kind of a turning point in the game, because if they score a couple runs they tie the game or change the game a lot," Francis said. "We kept our momentum and were able to score some more runs."
The Rockies rallied again in the sixth, as Nelson and Jonathan Herrera poked singles up the middle and pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge drove a soft liner to center to plate Nelson.
Josh Roenicke, Rex Brothers, and Matt Belisle combined for four scoreless innings out of the 'pen, with a late threat coming when Victorino knocked a one-out triple to left in the eighth. Belisle came on in relief of Brothers and promptly hit Mark Ellis with a pitch, bringing Kemp to the plate as the potential tying run. Belisle induced a 5-4-3 double play out of Kemp.
"They did a good job of not letting us score," said Kemp. "I had a perfect situation and rolled over and hit into a double play. I can't be doing that."
Colorado added seven runs in the eighth to pull away. Nelson hit a double for his third hit of the night and scored on LeMahieu's single. Colvin hit a two-run triple, then Jordan Pacheco hit an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch. Wilin Rosario capped the inning with a two-run homer.
"It was the only fastball I got in the game I could do something with," Rosario said.
"You have to play good baseball against this team dealing with this lineup, and you cannot afford to give them unnecessary opportunity," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Jeff Francis did a tremendous job of not allowing any of that to happen. He had probably the best fastball he's had since he's been here. I saw him tickle 89 tonight."
The performance tickled his teammates as well, restoring confidence to a club that has won 14 of 21 games, starting with a 2-0 blanking of the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Aug. 6.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.