MLB Insiders: Colorado Rockies

The Pirates open a four-game series with Colorado on Thursday night at PNC Park. Newly acquired right-hander James McDonald gets the start for the Bucs. The Rockies will counter with lefty Jeff Francis.

The Colorado Rockies are going to need a substantial run to get back into serious playoff contention. Beating the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates would be one way to start.

The Rockies, who lost a home series to the Pirates last week, try to snap a six-game road losing streak Thursday when they open a four-game set at PNC Park.

Jeff Francis (4-3, 4.44 ERA) is looking to win his third straight decision. He gave up two runs in six innings of a 17-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

The left-hander has won three straight starts against the Pirates, but hasn't faced them since 2007.

Pittsburgh will give the ball Thursday to newly-acquired James McDonald (0-1, 8.22), who will make his second start this season.

The right-hander, acquired in a weekend trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings of a 5-2 loss to San Francisco on July 19. He was sent to the bullpen following that outing, and was used three times thereafter.

After salvaging a split of their two-game series with the Giants on Wednesday, the Rockies embarked on a 2 1/2 week stretch that will mostly be spent on the road, where improved play is vital if they want to be playing meaningful games in late September, let alone October.

The Rockies will play 13 of their next 16 games away from Denver -- four at Pittsburgh starting Thursday, three against the Mets in New York from Aug. 10-12, three at Dodger Stadium from Aug. 17-19, and three at Arizona from Aug. 20-22. During that stretch, the Rockies will make a pit stop at Coors Field to play the Brewers from Aug. 13-15.

The Rockies are 36-19 (.655) at Coors Field but just 20-32 (.385) on the road. Their last road trip was a 2-9 debacle at Cincinnati, Florida and Philadelphia coming out of the All-Star break, a trip that finished with six consecutive losses.

"I don't give a damn if it's the Pirates, the Mets, the Dodgers and Arizona after we come back here and play Milwaukee for three days," manager Jim Tracy said. "We got to win games on the road, period. It doesn't matter who we play, how good they are, what their record is. We have to beat them a lot more than they're beating us. It's that simple. Or we're negating what we're doing here at home. We're going to negate it."

The Rockies are hitting just .229 on the road. However, their 4.18 ERA on the road is nearly as good as their 4.14 ERA at home. In fact, their home ERA was slightly higher (4.19) than their road mark before a 6-1 win over the Giants on Wednesday.

The Rockies are 12-6 in one-run games at home but just 5-12 in such games on the road, the result, Tracy said, of having fewer scoring opportunities in games away from Coors Field.

For the Rockies, the upcoming 16-game stretch is best seen in segments, with the first portion the seven-game jaunt to Pittsburgh (24-28 at home) and New York (33-19).

"The road trip is going to be very important for us," outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "We need to start playing better on the road, because that's what's going to make the difference. It's up to us."

ROCKIES 6, GIANTS 1: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez tied the franchise record with his 17th victory, allowing four hits and one run in seven innings. He held the Giants scoreless until the sixth, when Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey hit back-to-back doubles with one out. By then, Colorado was leading 4-0, thanks to Ryan Spilborghs' two-out, two-run double in the second and Carlos Gonzalez's two-run homer in the fifth. The Rockies completed the scoring when Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki hit back-to-back homers in the sixth.

Notes, Quotes

* 3B Melvin Mora, hit by a pitch thrown by Giants RHP Denny Bautista in the fifth inning, left the game and was diagnosed with a left knee contusion. He is day-to-day. Before exiting, Mora went 1-for-2, making him 10-for-17 (.588) in the last five games in which he's had a plate appearance.

* RHP Ubaldo Jimenez improved his record to 17-2 and tied the franchise record for wins in a single season. Kevin Ritz set the mark with 17 wins in 1996, and Pedro Astacio in 1999 and Jeff Francis in 2007 matched it. Jimenez has won back-to-back starts for the first time since June 11 against Toronto and June 17 at Minnesota.

Jimenez had allowed a combined total of 10 earned runs in consecutive starts July 19 and July 24 in his first two starts after the All-Star break before giving up one run in seven innings July 29 against the Pirates. He threw 123 pitches in that game and 118 while limiting the Giants to four hits and one run in seven innings Wednesday. San Francisco had just three at-bats with a runner on second base.

"It's his best start since post-All-Star break," manager Jim Tracy said. "He was in command and in control of everything today. He was dominant today."

* OF Carlos Gonzalez hit his 22nd and 23rd home runs in the first multi-homer game of his career. Gonzalez has six home runs in his past seven games, dating to July 28. In that seven-game span, Gonzalez is hitting .500 (15-for-30) with six homers, 10 RBI and 11 runs.

* OF Carlos Gonzalez and SS Troy Tulowitzki hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning. It was the fifth time this season the Rockies have hit back-to-back homers, the last being July 27 when Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes did it. Gonzalez has been part of the back-to-back feat on four of the five occasions this season. Tulowitzki's homer was his first since coming off the disabled list July 27 after missing 33 games with a fractured left wrist and his first in 39 at-bats since June 15.

* CF Dexter Fowler played for the first time since Sunday, when he had suffered contusions to his left hip and left ribs as he collided with the wall while making a catch in the ninth inning. Fowler went in defensively in the eighth inning and batted in bottom of that inning, fouling out to third base on the first pitch.

* The Rockies are 22-17 against the NL West and a combined 15-9 against the two teams ahead of them. Colorado is 8-4 against the Padres, 7-5 against the Giants, 2-4 against the Dodgers and 5-4 against the Diamondbacks.

* The Rockies went 5-3 on a homestand against the Pirates, Cubs and Giants. The win Wednesday enabled the Rockies to split their two-game series with the Giants. Since Jim Tracy took over as manager May 29, 2009, the Rockies have not been swept in a series at Coors Field. The last time Colorado was swept in a series at home was May 25-27, 2009, against the Dodgers, the final three games of Clint Hurdle's tenure as manager.

By The Numbers:

11—Consecutive hits, a major league record for a single inning, recorded by the Rockies in the eighth inning July 30. All the hits came with two outs and were part of a franchise-record 12-run inning that resulted in a 17-2 win against the Cubs.

Quote To Note:

"We know where we stand, and we know what we have to do. We can't be OK for the rest of the year. That won't be good enough. … We've got to get very, very busy, and just being OK won't be good enough. Going to have to be a lot better than that." —Manager Jim Tracy, after the Rockies broke a season-high eight-game losing streak, part of their 2-11 start after the All-Star break.

Medical Watch:

* 3B Melvin More (bruised left knee) left the Aug. 4 game. He is day-to-day.

* CF Dexter Fowler (bruised left hip and ribs) was hurt Aug. 1, and he did not play Aug. 3. He returned to action as a reserve Aug. 4.

* RHP Matt Daley (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 11, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 3. He began a minor league rehab assignment July 12, but he was shut down indefinitely due to renewed discomfort following a July 24 appearance for Class AAA Colorado Springs. Recommended Stories