Francis tosses seven strong as Rockies nip Nationals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes came
within inches of giving up the lead for a second straight game.

A day after blowing his first save since April 28, Fuentes had to work through a difficult ninth for his 14th save as the Rockies held off the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Monday night.

Fuentes struck out Ryan Zimmerman to start the inning but gave up a solo homer to Jose Guillen with one out to make it 4-3.

After Brian Schneider struck out, Marlon Byrd hit a line drive down the left-field line on a 2-2 count. As the ball sliced, Byrd stopped in the baseline and crouched, but the ball landed inches to the left of the foul pole and inches below the top of the fence. On the next pitch he grounded out to end the game.

"I was just willing it," Byrd said. "You need luck in this game, you need luck. When you're going bad in this game, things just don't go your way."

Jeff Francis pitched effectively into the seventh inning and former Nationals infielder Jamey Carroll, making his return to RFK Stadium, had three hits and an RBI as the Rockies handed Nationals starter Ramon Ortiz his first loss in a month.

Francis (5-5) allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Francis has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts and four hits or fewer in four of his last five

"He's been on a very nice roll," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He studies, he prepares. He doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. It was a very effective outing, he didn't let
the game get away from him."

Scott Dohmann and Jose Mesa combined for 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief before Fuentes entered the game in the ninth.

Ortiz (5-5) saw his five-start winning streak end. The right-hander, who hadn't lost since May 12 at Atlanta, allowed four runs, seven hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 strong innings.

The Rockies took the lead in the sixth after Helton led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a Brad Hawpe single. JD Closser drove in Helton from second base with a broken-bat single, which barely went over the glove of shortstop Royce Clayton.

"I don't want to say anything about broken-bat hits, because it's not a good pitch," Ortiz said. "All the pitches the hitter hits, that's not a good pitch."

Ortiz was removed in the seventh after Cory Sullivan reached on an infield single. Against reliever Mike Stanton, Sullivan stole second and scored on Todd Helton's single to center field.

Washington took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Guillen's RBI single and a double-play ground out by Schneider.

The Rockies scored two runs in the fifth to tie the game. Closser singled and Barmes followed with his triple. Barmes scored on a groundout by Carroll, who had spent his first 10 years as a professional in the Nationals organization before being sold to the Rockies in February. He also singled in the first, doubled in the third and singled in the ninth.

"You want to go against your former teammates and you want to play well," Carroll said. "It was good to come in here and get the win and get some hits."

Game notes
Nationals right-hander John Patterson made a rehab start for Triple-A New Orleans Monday, giving up two runs, four hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. Patterson has been sidelined since April with a right forearm strain. ... Ortiz singled in the third inning for his seventh career hit and third this season. Entering the game, he had six career hits in 101 at-bats, for an average of .059. He threw 119 pitches, his most since April 26, when he threw 120 against Cincinnati. ... Sullivan made a spectacular diving catch in right-center field in the sixth inning to rob Nick Johnson of an extra-base hit. ... In his last six games, Carroll has 14 hits in 29 at-bats. ... Closser had his first multi-hit game since Sept. 2, 2005, when he went 2-for-4 against the Dodgers.