Atkins, Matsui help Rockies give Beckett first loss of '07

" First loss: Beckett's defeat was his first since Sept. 27, 2006. He allowed a season-high six earned runs in five innings and gave up 10 hits.

" Winning effort: Jeff Francis pitched six innings of scoreless baseball and allowed seven hits while striking out six. He improved to 5-1 in his last eight starts.

" Figure this: The Rockies climbed back to .500 for the first time since April 14. They have won eight of their last 11 games and nine of their last 13 on the road.

" Figure this II: Boston has lost nine of its last 14 games and their lead in the AL East is trimmed to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox had a 14 1/2 game lead on the New York Yankees just two weeks ago.

" Quotable: "For two seasons, all we did was throw him praise. And then,
six weeks into the season, we had some people throwing dirt on him. He is going to figure it out.
He is starting to figure it out. He is going to be a big part for us." -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, on Atkins' day

-- ESPN.com news services

Rockies 7, Red Sox 1

BOSTON (AP) -- With a line-drive grand slam over Fenway Park's Green Monster, Garrett Atkins might have put his slump behind him.

"I know I'm a good hitter," the Rockies third baseman said Thursday night after going 3-for-5 to help Colorado beat the Boston Red Sox 7-1. "I've had two bad months of swings, but we've got four months left."

Kaz Matsui also had three hits for the Rockies as they sent Josh Beckett (9-1) to his first loss of the season. Jeff Francis (6-5) pitched five shutout innings, allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out two to win for the fifth time in six decisions.

"I can't try to raise my game," Francis said of facing an unbeaten pitcher. "I've just got to try to do what I do and hope, like today, we score a lot of runs. If we can score them early, I can get into a rhythm."

Beckett has won just two of his last five starts, a span that included two weeks on the disabled list with torn skin on his right middle finger. He allowed season highs of six runs and 10 hits, with a walk and a strikeout in five innings before leaving down 6-0.

"It was a fun run," Beckett said after taking his first loss. "There's no way I take all the credit. If you're not striking everybody out, you need those eight guys behind you."

Boston's loss, coupled with the Yankees' 7-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, trimmed the Red Sox lead in the AL East to 7 1/2 games, just about half of the 14 1/2 games New York trailed by just two weeks ago. The Red Sox have lost three of four and scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last nine games.

Atkins was hitting .220 at the end of May, but he's batted .315 in his last 15 games to raise his average to .242. By the time he doubled to start the fifth inning on Thursday, he was just a triple away from hitting for the cycle.

"For two seasons, all we did was throw him praise. And then, six weeks into the season, we had some people throwing dirt on him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He is going to figure it out. He is starting to figure it out. He is going to be a big part for us."

The Rockies outscored Boston 20-5 to take the three-game series 2-1, winning for the eighth time in 11 games and improving to 33-33 for the season -- the first time they'd been at .500 since losing on April 14. They are 6-0-1 in their last seven series, and have won a franchise-record four straight series on the road.

Francis gave up singles to Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp to start the sixth, but Jorge Julio came on and retired the next three batters.

Matsui doubled and scored on Todd Helton's single in the first. Boston loaded the bases in the second, but J.D. Drew hit a hard liner up the middle that was caught by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for the second out; Francis struck out Dustin Pedroia to end the inning.

"We're looking at maybe being up 2-1 with a full-fledged rally going," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "They turn it around in the top of the inning with a grand slam, so it's a big swing. It's obviously a pivotal point in the game."

Matsui led off the third with a single, then Matt Holliday lined one into the left-center gap, where Crisp made a nice slide to keep it from going to the wall. But he popped up and inexplicably threw the ball toward left-fielder Manny Ramirez, who was maybe a dozen yards closer to the infield.

Ramirez leaped but couldn't get to the ball, and it rolled around in the outfield. With nobody out, Matsui was held at third by substitute third-base coach Glenallen Hill, but it didn't matter when Helton walked to load the bases and Atkins cleared them with a shot into the Monster Seats.

Game notes
Boston 3B coach Mike Gallego missed the game to attend the high school graduation of his twin sons. Hill moved from first to third and bench coach Jamie Quirk worked at first. ... Ramirez, who usually wears his pants legs down to his shoes, showed a lot of red sock. ... Drew was bumped from fifth to leadoff in the hopes of sparking some offense. He went 0-for-5 and did not reach base. ... Umpire Bruce Froemming, who announced plans to retire after a career of more than 5,000 major league games, worked second base. Froemming will work home plate at next month's All-Star game.