You would think a pitcher making his first start since September 2008 because of shoulder surgery would be a little nervous, rusty or wild.

You would be wrong.

Jeff Francis, a former 17-game winner for the Colorado Rockies, returned to the mound for the first time since late 2008 and threw seven innings of one-run ball, defeating the Washington Nationals 2-1 before 42,874 on a beautiful Rocky Mountain Sunday afternoon.

The loss hands the Nationals their first three-game losing streak of the season, and drops their record to 20-18.

It was also something of a moving day for the Nats as well.  Before the game, Mike Morse was activated from the 15-day DL and Willy Taveras was designated for assignment. 

After the game, 2009's No. 10 overall draft pick Drew Storen was summoned from Triple-A Syracuse and Brian Bruney, who has struggled all season long, was designated for assignment as well.

Storen has a 1.08 ERA in 16. 2 innings, allowing 15 base runners and striking out 15 between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in 2010.

Bruney has been, in a word, brutal this season.  He went 1-2 with a 7.64 ERA, giving up 18 runs, 21 hits and 20 walks in 17.2 innings.  He struck out 16, but the appeal of having a potential strikeout arm in the pen was more than overshadowed by the constant walks and good contact made against him.

Bruney was acquired in the off-season from the New York Yankees for the rights to the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, and was expected to be a main cog in Manager Jim Riggleman's bullpen.  Instead, his poor pitching forced the Nats hand to promote Storen, probably early enough that he will qualify for "Super 2" status, reaching arbitration and earning his free agency a year earlier than the rest of the Class of 2010.

"This is a results orientated game," Bruney said afer the game.  "When you don't produce, obviously you're going to think about that."

"I don't feel like I'm a minor league pitcher, so we'll see what happens. Maybe somebody else doesn't feel that way, either. As it sits now, I'm going to go home."

As for the game, the Rockies scratched out a run off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and Manny Corpas made the run stand up, giving reliever Matt Belisle (1-0, 2.28) the win.

Francis was sharp in his first start in over a year and a half.  He gave up seven hits and two walks in seven innings, allowing just one earned run.  He struck out six Nats batters.  Francis threw 67 of this 106 pitches for strikes, and used a variety of off-speed pitches to keep the Nats off-balance.

On the other side, Nats starter Scott Olsen kept his team in the game, despite his admission of not being as sharp as he had been earlier this month.  He went six and two-thirds, allowing five hits and one walk, striking out three. 

Though the numbers look good, Olsen said after the game he did not feel very comfortable on the mound, but felt better as the day went along.

Clippard, who bailed Olsen out in the seventh retiring Clint Barmes with two on and two out, couldn't keep the game knotted in the eighth.

He walked the leadoff hitter, Seth Smith, and allowed a single to Carlos Gonzalez, moving Smith up to second.  After a sacrifice, Brad Hawpe lofted a fly ball to deep left field, and Smith trotted home with the tie-breaking--and winning--run.

Clippard dropped to 7-2 this season, taking his second loss in a week.

Washington got their lone run of the game with the first out of the game.  Nyjer Morgan led off with an infield single, Ian Desmond doubled to left, and Cristian Guzman hit a sac fly to plate the run.  That was the extent of the Nats offense against Francis.

Desmond's double was the Nats' only extra-base hit of the game.

Colorado took the final three games of the four game series, the last two by one-run margins.

It's a quick turnaround for the Nats, who play Monday in St. Louis.  Craig Stammen (1-1, 5.84) faces Kyle Lohse (0-3, 5.68) at 8:15 EDT.

NATS NOTES:  Morse and Guzman had two hits apiece. 

Ryan Zimmerman, hitting the clean-up spot, went 0-for-4.

Adam Dunn was given the day off due to flu-like symptoms.

Nyjer Morgan went 1-for-4, but struck out three times, including in the seventh inning when the Nats had runners at first and second with one out.

2 comments

  1. bdrube // May 16, 2010 at 8:24 PM  

    Super 2 status only affects arbitration. It has nothing to do with free agency. Storen still has to be on an MLB roster for 6 full seasons to be FA eligible.

    That means he won't be a free agent until after the 2016 season, assuming he pitches that long and the Nats keep him that long without sending him back to the minors at some point.

  2. Souldrummer // May 16, 2010 at 9:30 PM  

    Didn't Francis have a lights out 7 inning start in the minors before facing us? Seems like the Rockies are starting to get healthy at the right time and we may feel better about our 3-5 record against them later on in the season and regret the unbalanced schedule that gave us 8 games against the Rockies.