Cardinals rocky again on the road

Colorado’s win streak climbs to six after Monday’s game.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:39 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

DENVER — Jeff Francis doesn’t want to analyze why he’s pitching so well in May. The Colorado Rockies feel the same way about their six-game winning streak.

Francis allowed five hits in 72/3 innings as the Rockies continued their longest winning streak since 2002 with a 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday.

“I think we’ve always expected this out of ourselves,” said Francis, who is 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in May. “Nobody motivates us more than ourselves. We’re not out here winning so they’re not writing bad things about us.”

The Rockies were under fire before their hot streak. Not that manager Clint Hurdle paid any attention to the criticism.

“I don’t read the papers,” Hurdle said. “I’ve heard rumblings. But you talk about staying focused on the game at hand.”

Francis (4-4) can’t explain why the Rockies have broken out of their funk, only saying the team has started combining their pitching and hitting.

“Since I’ve been here, the biggest problem has been putting it together for a stretch,” Francis said. “It’s what we’ve expected. We’re not satisfied at six.”

Francis had a shutout going into the eighth when Aaron Miles doubled with two outs and So Taguchi hit a two-run homer to left, his first of the season.

It was Francis’ only mistake of the game.

“He did what he does with pitches like that,” Francis said.

Miles was impressed by his former teammate.

“Everybody has the book on him, and everybody has the tape,” Miles said. “When he’s where he wants to, he’s really tough. It’s why he fast-forwarded through the minor leagues — nobody could hit him there.

“He had a little bit of trouble in the beginning of his career here, but it looks like he’s settling into a pretty good pitcher.”

Hurdle pulled Francis after Taguchi’s homer, feeling Francis didn’t have anything left, after only 99 pitches.

Francis agreed.

“I was pretty exhausted,” said Francis, who threw 14 scoreless innings before Taguchi’s homer. “I could feel the end coming out there.”

Brad Hawpe had a two-run homer in the seventh and Matt Holliday had a solo homer in the first, his ninth. Kaz Matsui scored two runs on two singles and Willy Taveras finished 2-for-4 with two stolen bases.

“I think we’re expecting to come up with the big plays in big situations,” Holliday said. “We’re having fun.”

The Cardinals continue their road woes, having dropped 11 of their last 13 away from Busch Stadium.

“This game, we never really got it going,” Miles said.

Francis worked his way out of a two-out jam in the sixth. He gave up singles to Miles and Taguchi and then pitched around Albert Pujols to load the bases. Scott Spiezio hit into an inning-ending force play at second.

“We made a lot of outs that were not quality outs,” manager Tony La Russa said. “That’s how I see today’s game.”

The Rockies see it as another step in the right direction. The team hasn’t won seven in a row since September 1998.

Kip Wells (2-9) gave up 11 hits in 61/3 innings and struck out three. The Cardinals have been outscored 51-15 in his last seven starts.

“It was a battle the whole time,” Wells said of his outing. “Obviously I had men on base pretty much every inning.”

Pujols’ 11-game hit streak was snapped with an 0-for-3 afternoon.

Francis sparked a two-run fifth inning with a one-out double to right-center, his first extra base hit since 2005. He scored on Matsui’s RBI single to left. When asked about his speed around third, Francis just rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, right,” he said.

As for his recent success on the mound, he doesn’t want to dwell on it.

“I’ve always felt like I could go out here and win a ball game,” Francis said. “Even if I’m in a slump, I have confidence I’m going to come out of it. When I’m pitching well, like now, it’s easy to roll with it.”

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