04/17/07 1:48 AM ET
Francis hit hard in Rockies' loss
Left-hander allows five runs in third inning against Giants
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
With only Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki able to touch Giants starter Barry Zito for hits, the Giants' run in the first -- on an infield single and a Rich Aurilia double -- was all Zito needed. But the Giants matched his crisp performance with a breakout night at the plate.
"We didn't get the start we wanted. They did," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "We didn't swing the bats the way we'd like to. They did."
The bulk of the damage against Francis came in the third inning, when San Francisco batted around to the tune of four hits and three walks (one intentional) off the struggling southpaw. Big innings are uncharacteristic for Francis, but things quickly got away from him after a one-out walk to Dave Roberts, who stole second and scored on a single by Omar Vizquel.
With two outs and one on, Francis lost a battle with Barry Bonds, walking him on a full count with a ball off the plate. Two pitches later, Francis yielded a three-run homer to Ray Durham, followed two pitches later by a solo shot from Bengie Molina.
"I let it pile on a little too much," Francis admitted. "I wasn't able to stop the bleeding."
The three walks in five innings spoke to a lack of sharpness for Francis, who was coming off a five-game suspension for throwing behind a batter during Spring Training. When he was in the strike zone, the Giants consistently found ways to do damage, stroking nine hits as Francis tried to hang on and eat innings.
"I was falling behind in counts, but I wasn't walking the ballpark," Francis emphasized. "The walk to Roberts was bad. The walk to Bonds was a close pitch, but it was a ball. It unraveled pretty quickly."
The Giants hadn't played a game since Friday, due to weather conditions in Pittsburgh, giving them the opportunity to rearrange their pitching staff and send ace Zito to the mound against the Rockies.
Zito was perfect through 3 2/3 innings before allowing a walk to Garrett Atkins and a single to Helton, but he left the game unscathed after six, shutting down the Rockies on three hits and three walks.
"He had a pretty good breaking ball working, and he had a nice changeup," Hurdle said. "He had a nice package he was throwing against the right-handed hitters. Helton was able to see him good and put some good swings on him, and Tulowitzki. We didn't barrel up enough balls. He's capable of throwing very well. He pitched more to what you're used to seeing from him tonight."
Helton and Tulowitzki were the bright spots among the Rockies hitters, lashing three and two hits, respectively. Though he entered the game hitting .179, Tulowitzki has gone 3-for-6 the past two days, perhaps feeling the pressure to perform with shortstop Clint Barmes returning from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday.
"How bout that!" Hurdle observed "Sometimes the dynamics aren't all on paper, they're not done in the cage. His at-bats have really cleaned up. He's got his feet underneath him. He's hitting the ball where it's pitched, slowing things down and taking good swings."
Brad Hawpe had the only other hit in a Colorado lineup suffering its second shutout of the season and scoring two runs or less for the fifth time in the first 13 games.
"We need to play better," stressed Hurdle. "We need to stay focused on what it takes to win. The thing we don't need to do is panic.
"We can't let our confidence waver with the results of 13 games, that would be silly," Hurdle added, mindful of his team's 5-8 record, all within the division. "We're not playing like we believe we can play. We need to continue to believe in what we believe in. The court of public opinion is huge, it's out there, but that can't sway the confidence inside this clubhouse. It's not going to sway mine."
With the score a lopsided 7-0 after five, Hurdle called on starter Josh Fogg to pitch a pair of innings -- his first relief outing since September of 2005 -- and then, in the eighth, handed the ball to Zach McClelland, called up earlier in the day to take Byung-Hyun Kim's spot on the roster after Kim headed to the disabled list.
"It was surreal," said McClellan of his Major League debut. "It was something I've been dreaming [about] for a long, long time. To have that dream come true is unbelievable. Walking through the gate the first time and jogging out to the mound, it almost felt like I was floating to the mound. It's been a long time. It's been a lot of years. Now I need to make the adjustment. That's the next goal."
His first pitch to his first batter, pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney, was a called strike. His second pitch landed in left-center field, putting Sweeney on second where he later scored on a one-out single by Vizquel, who finished 4-for-5 on the night.
"They made some good pieces of hitting out of some decent pitches," McClellan conceded. "That's why I need to make the adjustment. That just tells me that the pitches aren't good enough if they hit the ball that hard."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.