Sweet win for Colorado tonight. Despite not scoring the number of runs you'd like to see at Coors Field against a Reds starter, the guy the Rockies most needed to get hot (that'd be Matt Holliday) did so, Jeff Francis was lights out for seven innings, and Purple-Glove and T-Rex took care of the rest. Holliday had three hits, two runs batted in, and a steal, a nice little package for his fantasy owners. (An 0 for 4 night for my guy Ryan Freel, however.) Danny Ardoin managed to break out of his slump slightly with a single for his first RBI of the season.
This game belonged to Francis, who pitched seven innings allowing four hits and one walk and striking out five. Fox Sports Rocky Mountain is channel 26 on my cable system, which is also Jeff Francis's jersey number. Hence, the Francis Channel. It started out as just my nickname for the TV network, but the more I think about it the more I believe I can turn it around and apply it to the player as well. And here's why: Every now and then, not often but sometimes, I get mail from baseball fans who don't follow the Rockies particularly but have one Colorado player they really like for one reason or another. Francis leads the team in this category by a wide margin. (Garrett Atkins is second, but his followers have more prosaic rooting interests -- they're mostly devisers of elaborate home/road platoon systems involving Atkins that won them roto titles.) Jeff Francis hasn't (yet) put up the nice stats of an Aaron Cook or demonstrated the long-term resiliency of a Jason Jennings, but he's the most fun of the Rockies' starters to watch when he's going good and man, was he going good tonight. There's a grand tradition in baseball of junkballing lefty starters, but Francis is not in the Jamie Moyer mold. His fastball is his best pitch, but not because it blows up radar guns, but because he spots it brilliantly and he can effectively dial his velocity forward and back. This year, after a shaky spring training and first couple of starts, he's really gotten a handle on his secondary pitches and he's striking more guys out.
Two interesting stats about Francis from the broadcast tonight: One, he leads the league in stolen bases allowed. Three Reds swiped on him tonight. This is a little weird for a lefty but Francis has a long motion, a poor pickoff move, and a tendency to become locked in on the batter he's facing. You know what, if he only gives up one extra base hit a night, guys can steal all they want. The other category in which Jeff is a world-beater is a little more desirable. He paces the majors in batting average allowed to the hitter leading off an inning. That's pretty cool. According to the little run expectancy table which my friend Ali made and laminated for me and I carry around in my wallet, you're expected to score 0.9259 runs with a runner on first and no out, and 0.2866 runs with one out and nobody on. That's a lot of significant figures, but I'm pretty sure the latter number is better. Go, The Francis Channel.
Clint Barmes missed the game tonight due to a death in the family. He'll be back tomorrow or Friday at the latest. Todd Helton will be back Friday as well. The TV guys said Brian Fuentes will take two days off after his save tonight. They didn't get around to saying specifically why but they did say it was something good and involved his wife, so you figure it out.
Random observation: The Reds' home caps, red with black brims and a white "C", are among the nicest-looking in baseball. Their road caps, which are basically the reverse negative -- black with red brims, red "C" -- are hideous. Especially in the rain tonight. I don't know why this is. You wouldn't think the color of a "C" would make so much difference, but it really does. They have a third hat that's plain red, but the "C" has a drop shadow under it, unlike those worn by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, et al back in the day. This bugs me for some reason. But I also paid twenty-five bucks to get a new Mets hat when they decided to change the color of the button on the top from blue to orange. I'm a sucker like that.