Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I figured there was going to be a pretty good pitching performance in Wednesday's Game 1 of the NLDS between the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. But never in a million years did I think it would come from Colorado left-hander Jeff Francis.
It's not that I don't think Francis is any good, because I do. It's just that he was so brutal in this ballpark nearly three weeks ago on September 13 when he was torched for eight runs and eight hits in only 3 1/3 innings.
Wednesday, though, was a different story, as he kept Philly's powerful lineup off balance all day, leading his team to a 4-2 win and snatching home-field advantage away from the Phillies in the best-of-five series.
"I think I'm always aware of the successes I've had or successes I've not had against teams," Francis said, "You know it's there and you try not to let it get to you because you know it's just a matter of execution. If I go up there and make my pitches, and they still -- then I have a lot of adjustments today. Today I stayed ahead in the count for the most part."
Francis, making his first postseason start, set the tone early, as he struck out seven of the first 13 batters he faced. He lasted six innings and gave up a pair of runs and four hits, while fanning eight in the win.
Six of Francis' strikeouts came against Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
"You don't want to mess around and fortunately they were swinging and missing," Francis added. "It really wasn't total intention, but if they are going to miss it, then that's great."
Francis' only mistakes were back-to-back solo home runs in the fifth off the bats of Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell. Luckily, though, he already had a three- run lead at the time of the blasts.
"It's just nice to have that three-run lead," said Francis. "You know, you give up a home run and still got a two-run lead. You give up back-to-back and it's loud as heck at the ballpark, but you're still winning. That's the nice thing about having a three-run lead."
The pitcher most people thought would have a big day, Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels, was also solid in his first postseason start, except for the second inning when he allowed three runs and three hits and walked two batters.
Those three hits would be the only hits he would allow in his 6 2/3 innings of work.
"Going out there I knew it was going to be tough," said Hamels, who walked four batters and fanned seven. "I learned a little too late. I was focused but my early struggling was what made the difference. I understand it better now and I'll have to come out the next time and get them."
HOLLIDAY MAKES CASE FOR MVP IN FRONT OF PHILLY FAITHFUL
Fans at Citizens Bank were chanting M-V-P all game. The only problem was they may have been chanting it at the wrong guy.
Colorado left fielder Matt Holiday, who led the NL in hitting and RBI, gave the Rockies bullpen some breathing room in the eighth with a solo shot over the wall in left-center field.
Rollins, who most people think is going to win the award, finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk.
Francis was the surprise of the day after pitching to a 15.12 ERA in his two starts against the Phillies in the regular season.
Howard and Utley combined to go 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts
The Colorado Rockies not only have Peyton Manning's backup quarterback at Tennessee on their roster (Todd Helton), but they also have Eli Manning's backup from Ole Miss (Seth Smith).
BATTLE OF ROOKIES IN GAME TWO
So, now in a must win situation in Game 2 on Thursday the Phillies will hand the ball to rookie Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick was one of the unsung heroes on the Phillies, as a plethora of injuries thrust him into the rotation in mid-June. The right-hander responded beautifully, as he was one of the Phils' most dependable starters down the stretch, finishing the season 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA.
Kendrick, though, was smacked around by the Rockies the last time he faced them, surrendering four runs and seven hits in just three innings.
Colorado, meanwhile, will pin its hopes on a rookie of its own in Game 2, as 21-year-old left-hander Franklin Morales takes the hill. Morales started just eight games for the Rockies and was 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA>
However, one of those wins came against the Phillies, who managed just three hits off of the Venezuelan hurler in five scoreless innings.