(Sports Network) - The Rockies received a boost when Jeff Francis returned to the rotation three weeks ago, but the left-hander has struggled over the last two starts in his comeback from shoulder surgery.
The Canadian southpaw will look to end a two-start skid this evening when Colorado goes for both a third straight win overall and against the Houston Astros in the second contest of a four-game series at Coors Field.
After missing all of 2008 due to his injury, Francis will make his fifth start of the season tonight after making his 2010 debut on May 16 versus the Nationals with seven innings of one-run ball. The left-hander was just as sharp six days later against the Royals, picking up his first victory behind 6 1/3 shutout frames.
Francis, though, has allowed nine runs in back-to-back losses since his hot start. His latest loss came on Wednesday versus the Giants as he allowed four runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings while falling to 1-2 on the season with a 3.70 earned run average.
The 29-year-old has made three starts in his career against the Astros, going 1-2 with a 2.21 ERA.
Francis wouldn't mind a duplication of Monday's opener after teammate Jason Hammel hurled 7 1/3 scoreless innings and the Rockies offense pounded out 11 hits in a 5-1 victory.
"I had fastball command. It opened up all other pitches," said Hammel, who scattered six hits and three walks and in just the Rockies' third win in their last seven games at home versus the Astros.
While Clint Barmes sparked the offense with two RBI and was one of five Colorado hitters to finish with a pair of hits, Houston helped out by grounding into three double plays.
"We have some guys that can swing the bats real well. The double play bug got us a little bit tonight," said Astros manager Brad Mills, whose club had won five of six coming in.
Wandy Rodriguez took the loss for Houston after allowing three runs over seven innings. He was let down by an offense that had scored at least five runs in five of its last six games.
Pedro Feliz had a game-high three hits and scored a run on Monday, extending his hitting streak to nine games. He is batting .438 (14-for-32) over that run to up his season average from .200 to .241.
The Astros' offense might need to get on track quickly seeing as Brian Moehler has posted two vastly different starts since shifting from the bullpen to the rotation.
Moehler made his first start of the season on May 29 and was rocked for eight runs, 10 hits and three home runs over just 2 2/3 innings of a loss to the Reds.
He was much better five days later against the Nationals, holding them to a pair of runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision and is 0-2 with a 6.49 ERA in 14 appearances this season. The 38-year-old right-hander is slated to make tonight's start despite injuring his groin covering first base on the game's first batter versus Washington.
Moehler is 1-2 with a 6.67 ERA in eight career starts versus the Rockies, four of those starts.
The Astros and Rockies split a two-game set in Houston on May 19-20 and the 'Stros have still won six of their last nine over Colorado despite Monday's loss.