DENVER (AP) – Wilin Rosario and Dexter Fowler homered, helping Jeff Francis and the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 5-2 Friday in a festive home opener at Coors Field.
Francis (1-0) was ahead of batters all afternoon as he scattered five hits over six sharp innings. The soft-throwing lefty nearly became the first Rockies starter to eclipse the 100-pitch mark in 106 games, but was pulled after striking out Nick Hundley on his 97th offering to finish the sixth.
The last time Colorado had a starter reach the century mark in pitches was last June 12. It’s the longest string in the majors since records started being kept by STATS in 1988.
Rafael Betancourt pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save as the Rockies improved to 12-9 in home openers.
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 to a three-run inning for the Rockies. Marquis lasted six innings and gave up five runs, only two earned.
This was Francis’ first home-opening start of his career and he showed no signs of nerves despite 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.
Francis also became the second pitcher to go over 1,000 innings in a Rockies jersey.
A two-out error by Cabrera 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.
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.
Jesus Guzman staked the Padres to a 1-0 lead when he drove home Cabrera with a hit. It was Guzman’s first RBI of the season.
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.
Walt Weiss received quite an ovation, too, as he made his managerial debut at home. This is a moment he refused to think about in the days leading up to the game, only because he didn’t want to shed any tears.
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.
“I’ve been connected in the community for 20 years. I played here. It’s home,” 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.
“He’s meant so much to this franchise,” Weiss said. “I think it’s important that he really enjoys it.”
Before the game, pitchers Juan Nicasio and Edgmer Escalona made up after their skirmish during a public workout at Coors Field on Thursday. The two had to be separated by teammates after some back-and-forth bickering while the players were stretching.
Escalona explained the situation like this: “We are like brothers. What happened is we’re together too much. Sometimes, we’ve got to fight.”
To show there were no hard feelings, Escalona gave Nicasio a hug in the clubhouse.
“It’s no big deal,” Nicasio said. “He comes to my apartment every day, we cook together. He’s my best friend. Bad day.”
NOTES: Padres 3B Chase Headley will have an X-ray on his left thumb Monday to see how it’s healing. … Rockies RHP Jon Garland will start Saturday for the first time since June 1, 2011. He underwent shoulder surgery that season and missed all of 2012. The Padres will counter with RHP Tyson Ross, who was acquired in a four-player deal with Oakland last November. … Colorado presented Gonzalez with his 2012 Gold Glove award before the game. … Before the Rockies’ streak, the longest string of starters not throwing 100 pitches in a game was held by Washington, which went 33 games from Aug. 31, 2011, to April 10, 2012.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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