(Sports Network) - Canadian-born lefty Jeff Francis can get the Colorado Rockies started on a long-awaited win streak tonight, when the team hosts the Chicago Cubs to open a three-game weekend series at Coors Field.
The Rockies sit on the verge of playoff extinction after a recent eight-game losing streak, though they finally broke through for a victory on Thursday to salvage the finale of a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ubaldo Jimenez turned in seven strong innings and Clint Barmes drove in three runs as Colorado blitzed Pittsburgh, 9-3.
Jimenez (16-2) recovered from a horrible outing at Philadelphia on Saturday by scattering four hits and allowing one run, while fanning six with three walks.
The Rockies are fourth in the National League's West Division, nine games behind the first-place San Diego Padres. They trail the current NL Wild Card leaders, the San Francisco Giants, by 5 1/2 games.
Francis, a 29-year-old native of Vancouver, is unbeaten in four starts since a 13-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on June 30. He's won just one decision in those four outings, however, and the Rockies are 7-6 in the 13 games he's pitched this year.
His last victory came on July 20 at Florida, when he tossed seven innings of scoreless three-hit ball en route to a 10-0 victory over the Marlins.
Francis, who's not gotten a decision in five career starts against the Cubs, is 1-1 in seven outings at home this season with a 4.54 earned run average in 41 2/3 innings.
He's opposed by fellow Canadian Ryan Dempster, who also aims for a fifth straight start without a loss.
A native of Gibsons, British Columbia, Dempster was 6-7 after a 12-0 loss to Cincinnati on July 2, but has since gone 2-0 while allowing 31 hits and 15 runs in 23 2/3 innings. The Cubs are 3-1 in his last four starts.
Dempster, a former closer, is 5-3 with two saves and a hold in 16 career meetings with Colorado, allowing 39 earned runs and recording 44 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings.
He is 4-3 in 10 road starts this season.
The Cubs were last in action on Wednesday, when Houston's Carlos Lee slugged a pair of two-run home runs to back the solid pitching of Bud Norris in the Astros' 8-1 win over Chicago to close a three-game set.
Randy Wells (5-8) was charged with three runs on five hits and five walks over 5 2/3 frames for Chicago, which has dropped three out of four.
Chicago swept a two-game set from the Rockies at Wrigley Field from May 17-18, but lost three of four games between the teams held at Coors Field last season.