Marquis hits Rocky times

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

The surprising Colorado Rockies won their fourth straight game.

ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Francis may not have an overpowering fastball, but he threw plenty of what he called "quality strikes" to keep the St. Louis Cardinals off balance.

The left-hander deftly mixed off-speed pitches and accurate fastballs to give up one run in 7 2-3 innings in a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals on Monday night. The Rockies won their fourth straight and snapped St. Louis' winning streak at three.

Francis (2-2) allowed six hits, struck out one and walked three. He had a scoreless streak of 14 2/3 innings snapped when Hector Luna singled home So Taguchi with two outs in the eighth. Francis was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in April. He is 2-0 in May with a 0.61 ERA.

"I'm throwing strikes and being aggressive with my pitches, getting some ground balls and getting ahead on the count. Quality strikes," Francis said.

Matt Holliday was 3-for-4 with two solo homers and scored three runs. He hit both homers leading off innings against Cardinals starter Jason Marquis (3-4). His shots in the third and seventh innings gave him nine for the season. He also singled and scored in the fifth and was hit by a pitch in the first.

"He's hot," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "Certifiable hot."

Brad Hawpe singled twice and drove in three runs for the Rockies (20-13), who moved seven games over .500 for the first time since July 7, 2000, when they were 45-38.

"How good were the Rockies? They just played a good game from their side in all facets of the game," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Marquis has lost his last four decisions, largely due to wildness. His ERA was 2.79 after his first three starts, all wins. It is 8.74 in his four losses.

"Of course it's frustrating," Marquis said. "Anytime you're going out there and trying to get a job done and not doing it, it's going to be frustrating."

Marquis allowed four walks in 19 1-3 innings in his first three starts. In the four games since he has walked 13 in 22 2-3 innings.

That wildness was costly again Monday. With two outs and one on in the first he walked Garrett Atkins and hit Holliday. Hawpe followed with a two-run single to right.

Atkins led off the fifth with a double, moved to third on Holliday's single, and scored on a single by Hawpe.

Jim Edmonds drove in a run in the ninth with a sacrifice fly for St. Louis and Brian Fuentes came on with runners on first and third and got two outs for his eighth save in nine chances.

Francis, a rookie last season, is 2-0 lifetime against St. Louis, allowing one run in 13 2-3 innings, with both wins coming in St. Louis. He pitched six shutout innings in a 7-0 win over the Cardinals on June 30, 2005.

"He's on a roll," Hurdle said. "He was getting the leadoff hitter out. He was getting ahead on the counts. When you can get to the eighth inning with 100 pitches, that's good for him. He's never going to be a dart thrower."

Hurdle said that rather than being intimidated by playing the Cardinals, who have won 100 games or more each of the past two seasons, in front of a sellout crowd in their new stadium, his young team embraced the challenge.

"We're just going out and playing," Hurdle said. "This club looks forward to getting the opportunity to play the game. The bigger the venue, a little more focus, a little more hype -- they don't mind that. It's all part of their learning process."

Notes: Albert Pujols of the Cardinals walked in the first, his 31st of the season. Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu leads the NL with 34. ... The Cardinals are 12-5 in their inaugural season in the new Busch Stadium. ... All 17 games at the new stadium have been sold out. ... The Rockies have gone eight straight games without an error.

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