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DENVER (AP) — For a pitcher who rarely shows any hint of nerves, Jeff Francis certainly had a bundle of them.
Home opener. Packed park. New manager’s Coors Field debut.
Francis wanted this day to be memorable. So, he made sure it was.
Wilin Rosario and Dexter Fowler homered, helping Francis and the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 5-2 Friday in manager Walt Weiss’ home debut.
“You try to treat it like any other game, but there’s a lot of energy out there,” the usually unflappable Francis said.
Francis (1-0) was ahead of batters all afternoon as he scattered five hits over six innings. The soft-throwing lefty nearly became the first Rockies starter to throw more than 100 pitches since last June, but was pulled after striking out Nick Hundley on his 97th offering to finish the sixth.
The last time a Colorado starter reached the century mark in pitches was last June 12, a stretch of 106 games. It’s the longest string in the majors since records started being kept by STATS in 1988.
This was Francis’ first home-opening start for the Rockies and he was sharp in front of the raucous sellout crowd. With a fastball that barely creeps above 86 mph, Francis kept the Padres’ off balance.
He retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced.
Especially when he ran into trouble, which was rare on the picture-perfect afternoon.
“I always have confidence in Jeff that he can wiggle his way through stuff when he starts to get some traffic or things start to happen out there,” Weiss said. “He does a nice job when he gets into trouble of figuring things out.”
Troy Tulowitzki kept up his quick start, breaking a tie with a two-run double in the third. He also added a single.
Jason Marquis (0-1) was cruising along early before a costly fielding error by shortstop Everth Cabrera in the third paved the way for the Rockies’s three-run
Marquis lasted six innings and gave up five runs, only two earned.
“It has happened all my career. I don’t know how many times,” Marquis said of the miscue. “We are a team. We pick each other up. There are going to be times where they make great plays and get me out of a big inning. And I have to do the same for my teammates.”
That two-out error by Cabrera certainly opened the door for the Rockies. Cabrera couldn’t cleanly corral Josh Rutledge’s slow roller, allowing Chris Nelson to trot in from third. After Carlos Gonzalez walked, Tulowitzki hit a two-run double to left-center.
“Tough play,” Cabrera conceded.
Tulowitzki hasn’t missed a beat this season after missing a majority of 2012 with a groin injury that eventually required surgery to remove scar tissue. He already has six RBIs this spring.
Rosario is off to a great start, too, and his power is a luxury so deep in the order. It was his second homer in as many games.
“Rosario is not going to be a No. 7 hitter for real long in his career,” Weiss said. “He’s an impressive kid. He’s got crazy power. We can sit there and watch him take batting practice and even the big boys marvel at his power.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team, the organization brought back members of the 1993 squad.
Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla, the team’s assistant to the general manager, drew the loudest cheers when they sauntered out behind the pitcher’s mound.
Weiss received quite an ovation, too, as he made his managerial debut at home.
It was a moment the former big league shortstop refused to think about in the days leading up to the game, only because he didn’t want to show any emotion.
Hard to know if he did behind his dark shades. Weiss is making the huge leap from high school coach to major league manager as he tries to turn around a team that lost a franchise-most 98 games last season.
“The fans have always treated me well here, for whatever reason,” Weiss said. “The fact I get to run out there as a manager in a Rockies uniform, that’s really special to me.”
Same with Todd Helton, who may have played in his final home opener. The 39-year-old is in the last year of his contract.
“A great day. A great opening,” Helton said. “The weather was great and we got a win — couldn’t ask for anything better.”
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