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Rockies Back On The Road To Take On The Pirates

(Sports Network) - Jeff Francis has company with regard to the Colorado Rockies' single-season wins record. He probably couldn't be happier.

One day after All-Star Ubaldo Jimenez tied a club record, Francis goes for a third straight winning decision this evening in the opener of a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Colorado had won four straight prior to a loss to the San Francisco Giants in the opener of a quick two-game set on Tuesday. However, behind seven strong innings from Jimenez and a pair of homers by Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies posted a 6-1 victory on Wednesday.

Gonzalez drove in three runs and had the first of back-to-back homers in the sixth inning, with Troy Tulowitzki following with a blast of his own.

"You're very hopeful of the fact that this is a nice momentum builder heading into this road trip," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy of his club, which is beginning a seven-game swing tonight. "I've been saying for the last couple days that we need to get out from the start every game and play good baseball."

Jimenez improved to 17-2 after allowing just one run on four hits with nine strikeouts. He joins Francis, Kevin Ritz (1996) and Pedro Stacie (1999) as the only 17-game winners in team history.

Francis posted his 17-win campaign in 2007, but a left shoulder injury has limited him to just eight victories and 38 starts since. He missed all of 2009 due to the ailment and didn't make his debut this season until May 16

The left-hander, though, hasn't lost since June 30 and is 2-0 with a 2.00 earned run average in his last three starts. He beat the Cubs on Friday, allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk over six innings of a 17-2 triumph.

Francis, 29, is now 4-3 with a 4.44 ERA this year and is 3-2 with a 6.67 ERA in five career starts versus the Pirates.

He'll look to improve that mark tonight against a Pirates team that had lost five straight before Tuesday's win over the Reds. However, Pittsburgh failed to make it two wins in a row with yesterday's 9-4 setback to Cincinnati.

The Pirates got homers out of Andrew McCutchen, Jeff Clement and Pedro Alvarez, but starter Jeff Karstens allowed three runs over just five-plus innings before the bullpen surrendered another six runs.

"To summarize, I would say damage control," Karstens said. "I felt like every inning they were just putting pressure on me, putting pressure on me, getting guys on. Didn't have my best control."

After dealing away three relievers -- Octavio Dotel, D.J. Carrasco and Javier Lopez -- prior to last Saturday's non-waiver trade deadline, the Pirates added to their ranks on Wednesday by claiming both Chris Resop (Braves) and Chan Ho Park (Yankees) off waivers.

Dotel was dealt to the Dodgers, and one of the players acquired by the Pirates in that deal makes his debut tonight in James McDonald.

The 25-year-old was 6-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 12 starts at Triple-A Albuquerque this year and 0-1 with an 8.22 ERA in four games, including one start, with the Dodgers. In 53 total games with Los Angeles, including five starts, McDonald went 5-6 with a 4.11 ERA.

"I've had my eye on this guy for a couple years now," manager John Russell told Pittsburgh's website. "He's a very talented pitcher. I was surprised when [general manager] Neal [Huntington] called and told us we got him. He's got the arm to be a very good starting pitcher. I'm very excited about it."

McDonald, a right-hander, is 2-1 with a 4.63 ERA in two starts and three relief appearances lifetime versus the Rockies. He is taking the rotation spot of Daniel McCutchen, who was shifted to the bullpen.

Though the Pirates took two of three in Colorado from July 27-29, the Rockies have still won six of the last nine meetings overall.