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No perfecto, so Rockies' Francis settles for 2-hit shutout

DENVER (AP) -- When Yadier Molina's bloop single glanced off Cory Sullivan's glove in the sixth inning, the center fielder leapt to
his feet in frustration.

Left-hander Jeff Francis, who had been working on a perfect game
to that point, let out a sigh and a slight smile.

"There's a lot of anxiety involved when you have something
going like that. When that ball dropped, it's almost a relief,"
Francis said. "You know, just concentrate on winning the game and
that load comes off your shoulders."

Francis rolled right along, tossing a two-hitter for his first
shutout, and the Colorado Rockies slowed down the St. Louis
Cardinals with a 7-0 victory Monday night.

"That," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said, "was a
masterpiece."

The Cardinals had homered in a franchise-record 19 straight
games but came nowhere near the wall against Francis, who uses a
strikingly similar delivery on all four of his pitches: a two- and
four-seam fastball, changeup and slider.

"He was throwing them all for strikes, too," Scott Rolen said.
"That makes for a tough night. He's one of those guys that hides
the ball real well. He was throwing sneaky."

The Cardinals managed to get only five balls out of the infield,
including Molina's single in the sixth and Albert Pujols'
line-drive double in the seventh.

"He just worked us over," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
said. "He probably didn't even take a shower. I didn't see if he
ever sweated. They probably could pitch him tomorrow. I hope he
doesn't."

Francis (8-8) retired his first 15 batters and got Molina to
chase a fastball cutting off the plate leading off the sixth.
Molina got just enough wood on it to punch it over second base, and
the only one with a chance at it was Sullivan, who dived and got
his glove on the ball only to watch it scoot underneath him.

"That exact play went through my head right before he hit it,"
Sullivan lamented. "I thought, don't give up the bloop single on a
changeup. Unfortunately, I was playing a step too deep and I just
couldn't get there."

Francis, whose longest outing before Monday night was 7 2-3
innings, matched a career high with eight strikeouts and didn't
walk a batter. He threw 129 pitches, including 10 to the final
batter, Chris Duncan, who grounded out to first on a full count.

"I've never been so out of breath," Francis said.

Pujols doubled off Francis in the seventh but was stranded at
third when second baseman Jamey Carroll made a diving stop of Juan
Encarnacion's grounder up the middle to preserve the shutout.

Garrett Atkins and Clint Barmes homered for Colorado, which won
for only the third time in 11 games since the All-Star break. The
Cardinals, who had won six straight road games and four in a row
overall, dropped to 8-3 since the break.

St. Louis rookie Anthony Reyes (2-4) allowed six runs and nine
hits in 5 1-3 innings.

Atkins staked Francis to a quick 2-0 lead in the first when he
hit his 14th homer, a two-run shot that traveled an estimated 447
feet. Sullivan's sacrifice fly an inning later made it 3-0.

Barmes led off the third with a triple and scored when second
baseman Hector Luna's relay got past third baseman Scott Rolen for
a throwing error.

Reyes left after Torrealba's RBI triple made it 5-0 in the
sixth, and Sullivan added his second sacrifice fly. Barmes, who has
hit in 12 straight games, led off the seventh with his seventh
homer.

The Rockies hope this performance jump-starts them for a nice
10-game homestand after a 2-8 trip.

"We didn't play well on the road and that was a brutal trip,
but we didn't lose much ground," Sullivan said. "Now, we can move
on."

And remember what might have been had he been playing a step
closer against Molina.

Game notes
The Cardinals' last seven-game road winning streak was July
18-30, 2004. ... The shutout was the fourth by a Rockies pitcher
this season (Jason Jennings twice and Josh Fogg), tying a franchise
record set in 2001.

Associated Press Correction
In a July 24 story about the Cardinals-Rockies
game, The Associated Press erroneously attributed a quote.
Cardinals' player Scott Rolen, not teammate Jim Edmonds, said: "He
was throwing them all for strikes, too. ... That makes for a tough
night. He's one of those guys that hides the ball real well. He was
throwing sneaky."

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