Francis, Rockies blank Astros to stop 8-game skid

" Hero: Francis allowed just three hits while striking four in seven innings.

" Quotable: "It's tough losing eight games in a row, but I think this group is special in that we don't let it weigh on us in the way it probably could." -- Francis

" Next stop: Craig Biggio, the newest member of the 3,000 Hit Club, added two more. Biggio now has 3,004 career hits, leaving him three shy of Al Kaline for 25th on the all-time list.

" Figure this: Even with the win, Colorado reached the midpoint of the season with a sub-.500 record for the 10th time in 15 years.

-- ESPN.com news services

Rockies 5, Astros 0

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Colorado Rockies snapped their longest losing streak of the season by beating their former ace and finally finishing a game the right way.

Jeff Francis allowed three hits in seven innings and the Rockies beat Jason Jennings and the Houston Astros 5-0 Saturday night to snap an eight-game skid.

Colorado had lost the first eight of a 10-game road trip and their nightmarish week featured four blown saves by Brian Fuentes. Francis said the Rockies never dwelled on the losses, knowing they played well enough to win at least half of them.

"It's tough losing eight games in a row," Francis said, "but I think this group is special in that we don't let it weigh on us in the way it probably could."

The Astros won the previous two nights with game-ending homers off Fuentes. This time, LaTroy Hawkins pitched the eighth and Jeremy Affeldt finished off the four-hitter with a perfect ninth as the Astros lost for the seventh time in 10 games.

Garrett Atkins drove in two runs, Matt Holliday had an RBI double and the Rockies won for just the fourth time in 13 games.

"It was nice to have those last couple of innings be a little bit more relaxing than they have been in the last week or so," Atkins said.

Kaz Matsui had three hits and scored two runs for the Rockies, who finished with 10 hits.

"It was a case of everybody complemented one another," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We were very unselfish at the plate and we got the hits when we needed them."

Francis (8-5) struck out four and limited the Astros to Mark Loretta's double and Craig Biggio's two singles. Biggio has 3,004 hits, three shy of Al Kaline for 25th on the career list.

Biggio was still getting standing ovations every time he stepped to the plate, two days after becoming the 27th player to reach 3,000 hits. He tipped his helmet to the fans before his first at-bat, but that was one of the only reasons for the sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park to cheer.

"We don't hit the ball at any part of the game," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "And that was unfortunate because it looked like we had a whole lot of momentum coming into the game."

Francis earned his third victory in four starts, winning a duel of Rockies top draft picks.

Jennings (1-3), drafted by Colorado in 1999, is the Rockies' career leader in wins (58), innings (941) and starts (156). He was traded to Houston in December. Francis was drafted in 2002.

Facing his former team for the first time, Jennings breezed through the first three innings, allowing only a walk to Troy Tulowitzki with four strikeouts.

Matsui then led off the fourth with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Holliday's double down the left-field line. Holliday's NL-leading 114th hit produced his 62nd RBI.

Holliday later scored on Atkins' sacrifice fly to center to put Colorado up 2-0.

Ryan Spilborghs put the Rockies up 3-0 in the fifth when he beat out an infield single to score Tulowitzki, who led off with a base hit.

Francis walked Jennings, a .111 hitter, with one out in the Houston fifth. Biggio followed with a single to left, but Hunter Pence popped out and Lance Berkman struck out swinging.

Hurdle conceded that Francis didn't pitch his best. Garner felt the same way.

"It was an OK game, but I didn't think it was shutout quality," Garner said. "When you don't hit, you look flat. I don't think he was overpowering with his fastball, I don't think his breaking ball was that good."

Jennings retired the Rockies in order in the seventh and was done after 107 pitches, his second-highest total of the season. He gave up five hits, struck out six and walked two.

He pitched for the Rockies from 2001-06, but treated Saturday's start no differently.

"Honestly, I didn't think much about them," Jennings said. "I looked at their lineup and tried to get a game plan like they were any other team."

The Rockies scored two runs in the eighth off Matt Albers, who was called up from Triple-A Round Rock on June 28. Atkins had an RBI single and Brad Hawpe had a run-scoring double.

Game notes
Despite the victory, the Rockies reached the midpoint of the season with a sub-.500 record for the 10th time in 15 years. ... Berkman failed to homer for just the third time in eight games. ... The Astros, hitting .302 in their previous 16 games, were shut out for the first time since a 4-0 loss to San Francisco on May 21. ... The Rockies didn't allow a homer for the first time in 10 games. ... The Rockies earned their second shutout of the season. Francis also started the first one, a 2-0 win at Arizona on May 23.