DENVER (AP) – Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis offered a different reason for his third consecutive sub-par outing.
“Today it was home runs,” said Francis, who was taken deep three times Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to Atlanta Braves that opened a day-night doubleheader. “Location was the problem and that’s the name of the game for me.”
With the temperature at 23 degrees at first pitch, Justin Upton hit his major league-leading 10th home run, and Dan Uggla and rookie Evan Gattis also connected for the Braves.
Francis had allowed seven runs to San Francisco and eight against the New York Mets in his two previous starts.
“At San Francisco, they jumped on me early and it got me,” Francis said. “The Mets game was a few infield hits and they put a lot of traffic on the bases and I wasn’t able to put people away after that.”
Francis (1-2) gave up four runs and six hits in four innings, leaving him with an 8.44 ERA. Neither he nor manager Walt Weiss expressed concern with this string of poor starts.
“I think Jeff knows what he’s got to do,” Weiss said. “I have confidence that he will come out and do the things he’s done early on. He has a plan out there and he knows how to execute.”
Reed Johnson, playing right field for Atlanta because Jason Heyward underwent an appendectomy Monday night, went 4 for 4 with three doubles. Heyward was put on the 15-day disabled list.
Colorado and Atlanta each began the day at 13-5, tied for the best record in the majors.
It was the coldest gametime temperature in the majors since it began collecting data in 1991, according to STATS. The Rockies said the previous low at Coors Field was 28.
Pitching in short sleeves while many of the other players were bundled up, Mike Minor (3-1) allowed three runs and five hits in six innings. By the time Craig Kimbrel pitched a one-hit ninth for his eighth save in eight chances, the temperature had warmed up to 27.
“It was cold,” Colorado left fielder Carlos Gonzalez said. “You couldn’t feel your hands when you went up there.”
Gattis hit a tiebreaking home run in the fourth and ended the game by throwing out Wilin Rosario trying to steal second.
Ground crews began working at around 6 a.m. to clear several inches of snow from the playing surface at Coors Field, which opened in 1995. While there was no sign of snow on the field when the game started, some parts of the ballpark remained closed, including the snow-filled Rockpile section in center. Workers hosed off the snow on the stand of evergreen trees beyond the center field wall. It was important that the trees be cleared of the snow because they’re part of the green “batters’ eye” background.
It’s been a wintry April for Denver, which has been hit by a wave of snowy weather over the past nine days that forced postponements of games three times. The delays led to two doubleheaders within a week.
Upton hit a solo drive in the first and a two-run homer in the second to make it 3-0. Colorado closed in the second on Rosario’s run-scoring groundout and Jordan Pacheco’s RBI single then tied it in the third when Dexter Fowler tripled to the right-field wall and Josh Rutledge singled.
Gattis homered leading off the fourth on a hanging changeup.
NOTES: The announced crowd was 19,124. … The Rockies were 0-3 at home against the Braves last year and 1-6 overall. … Fowler had his first triple of the season and 51st career three-bagger.
– By DENNIS GEORGATOS, Associated Press
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)