DENVER (AP) — Jeff Francis returned to Colorado on Saturday, his homecoming short, painful and without a hint of nostalgia.
The Los Angeles Angels knocked Francis out in the fourth and scored in five of the first six innings while beating the Rockies 11-5. Colorado tied its season high by hitting five homers, including two by Tyler Colvin, but for the second time, all five came with the bases empty and in a losing effort.
The Rockies, who are 0-5 in interleague play this season and have lost four straight overall, have lost 13 of their past 17 games with the Angels and two of the eight the teams have played all-time at Coors Field.
Francis (0-1), who spent the first two months of the season with Cincinnati’s Triple-A Louisville affiliate, made his 150th start for the Rockies, who drafted him in the first round in 2002 and for whom he pitched from August 2004 through 2010. He missed the 2009 season following shoulder surgery.
He gave up eight runs and 10 hits — all singles — in 3 1/3 innings, matching his career-high with eight earned runs.
“I don’t want to judge it too much the first time out,” manager Jim Tracy said. “I don’t want to feel I’m analyzing or overanalyzing Jeff. That’s his first time after what he had been doing with the Reds. Let’s let him take another start. What we did see was he threw strikes like he always does. They certainly didn’t pound him.”
After pitching for Kansas City last year, Francis signed a minor league contract with the Reds and made 12 starts for Louisville. He went 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA and 18 walks and 65 strikeouts in 77 1-3 innings. After pitching a shutout Sunday against Durham, Francis, who had the right to opt out of his contract June 1, asked the Reds for his release. At the time, he didn’t have a major league offer.
“I just took a risk hoping there’d be a job out there somewhere,” Francis said. “Fortunately there was.”
Once the Rockies showed interest, Francis had no desire to see whether any other clubs would call. He had gone 55-50 for the Rockies in 150 starts, and in 2007, he went 17-9 and helped the Rockies reach the World Series for the only time in franchise history.
“If the Rockies wanted me to play here, I wasn’t going to turn it down,” Francis said. “I loved playing here when I was here. I’d love to help this team win again. I can’t imagine anything better than that in this town.”
Making his first start for the Rockies since Sept. 28, 2010 — his lone relief appearance for them was on Oct. 3, 2010 — Francis gave up singles to Mike Trout and Torii Hunter to start the game. Albert Pujols’ sacrifice fly drove in the first run of the inning with the second scoring on Francis’ wild pitch.
Francis gave up three runs in the second, two scoring on Trout’s two-out single, followed by singles from Hunter and Pujols. Singles by Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo to open the third and a groundout gave the Angels a 5-2 lead.
Trout led off the fourth with a single and with one out, stole second and third while Francis was in the process of walking Pujols and ending his outing after 74 pitches. Guillermo Moscoso allowed the two runners he inherited to score on a groundout and Kendrick’s single.
“It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but it certainly felt good to be back out there and back in here (in the clubhouse),” Francis said. “I know I’ve got a lot more than that to offer this team, so I’ll continue to work hard and bounce back from it. Obviously, I gave up a lot of hits, but I don’t feel I was hit around hard.”
Dan Haren (4-6) went four straight starts without allowing a home run and had yielded seven in 76 2/3 prior innings this season. He gave up four homers to Marco Scutaro in the first, Tyler Colvin in the third, Carlos Gonzalez in the fifth and Chris Nelson in the sixth on Haren’s 107th and last pitch.
Having crept within hailing distance after Gonzalez’s 15th homer cut the Angels’ lead to 8-3, Moscoso gave up a two-run homer to Pujols in the sixth, his ninth of the season. Colvin’s second homer came in the seventh off left-hander Hisanori Takahashi.
The Rockies will send Christian Friedrich to the mound Sunday, hoping he can reverse a recent pattern from their starters.
“Three out of the last four days, we’ve pitched a total of 9 2-3 starter innings,” Tracy said. “That’s not going to work. That’s just simply not going to work.”