Rockies find a road win

Friday, July 1, 2005

Colorado defeated St. Louis 7-0 for just its sixth road victory of the season.

ST. LOUIS -- For at least one game, the Colorado Rockies looked ready for the road.

Rookie Jeff Francis pitched three-hit ball for six innings and Garrett Atkins and Danny Ardoin homered Thursday night in a 7-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that gave the Rockies only their sixth road victory of the season.

Francis (7-5) contributed two hits and scored twice for Colorado, a major league-worst 6-31 on the road.

"Now we can count our road wins on two hands," manager Clint Hurdle joked.

The start was the most feeble since the 1982 Twins went 5-32, and the Rockies had dropped five straight and 11 of 12 away from Coors Field while getting outscored 77-32.

Hurdle wasn't counting this one as a victory until pinch-hitter Luis Gonzalez's two-run double in the eighth.

"Blowouts for other people aren't exactly blowouts for us," Hurdle said. "We don't take things for granted around here. They have a good ballclub and they can jump up and bite you any time."

Dan Miceli, Jay Witasick and David Cortes each pitched an inning and gave up a hit in finishing the Rockies' second shutout of the season, neither on complete games, and first since June 10 against the Tigers. It came in a game matching teams at the top and bottom of the NL standings.

Albert Pujols had a single and two walks to extend his hitting streak to 12 games for the Cardinals, who missed a chance to go to a season-best 22 games above .500. After hitting 16 home runs in the first six games of a 10-game homestand, the Cardinals advanced only two runners to second base against Francis and totaled six hits.

The 24-year-old left-hander entered 1-4 with a 7.21 ERA on the road compared with 5-1 and 3.50 at home. He struck out six and walked two, allowing three singles in the fourth but getting out of the jam when Pujols tried to score from third on a single to shallow left and was easily thrown out at the plate by Cory Sullivan to end the inning.

"It's a dream to have a game like that where a lot of things went my way," Francis said. "You can't really ask for anything more."

Francis, who entered the game 1-for-25 at the plate with 12 strikeouts, singled and scored in the third and doubled over the head of center fielder Jim Edmonds and scored in the fifth. That, plus the fact he threw 30 of his 98 pitches while retiring the heart of the Cardinals' order in the sixth, factored in his exit after that inning.

"I don't think he was gassed, but he had to run the bases and the offense hasn't really been a part of his game," Hurdle said. "He might give you a nice clean seventh and it all sounds nice and rosy, but again, it can go south on you."

Atkins hit his seventh homer off Jeff Suppan (7-7) in the second and Ardoin hit his first leading off the third. Suppan, whose four-inning outing matched his shortest of the season, also walked home a run in the third and Aaron Miles' RBI single with none out in the fifth chased him.

The Rockies were 9-for-20 against Suppan, who carried a two-hitter into the ninth in his last start against the Pirates. Suppan struck out three and walked two.

"I was trying to get in a groove, I was trying to get in a tempo," Suppan said. "But I kept putting leadoff runners on base."

Atkins, who added an RBI single off Cal Eldred in the fifth to put the Rockies ahead 5-0, is batting .531 (17-for-32) during an eight-game hitting streak with 11 RBIs.

"I'm sure they're talking a little bit longer about him in those pregame meetings than they were earlier," Hurdle said. "He's given us an offensive jolt."

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