DETROIT -- Infielder Chris Nelson's return from a wrist injury on May 31 came at the right time.With Troy Tulowitzki going to the disabled list with a troublesome left groin injury, the Rockies sorely needed Nelson's defensive versatility. But Nelson also has been a boon to the offense. Going into his start Saturday at second base against the Tigers, Nelson was hitting .333 with a .438 on-base percentage, three home runs and six RBIs in 12 games since rejoining the club. Nelson's bat was important Friday night against the Tigers, when he tripled and homered while figuring in all four of the Rockies' early runs. Colorado scored eight times in the 10th inning of a 12-4 victory. Nelson's early production was the offensive difference between the Rockies staying in the game or having another weak-hitting road performance. "With the guys we have on this team, it's very important that the guys in the lower part of the lineup do something to try to spark them," said Nelson, who hit ninth in the batting order Friday and was back in that spot Saturday. "You want them to have opportunities with runners in scoring position." With Tulowitzki still out, Nelson and rookie Jordan Pacheco, who took the starting job when Nelson was hurt and carried a .301 average into Saturday, both had playing opportunities. In late innings, Pacheco leaves the game, Nelson moves to third and DJ LeMahieu takes over at second to improve the defense. Nelson, drafted as a shortstop in the first round in 2004, said he likes that the Rockies use his versatility. "I like playing, so anywhere for me is good," he said. Nelson entered the season receiving the bulk of playing time over Pacheco. When he tried to play through wrist pain, his batting average dropped to .219 before he went to the DL. Now Nelson is making the most of a chance to show what he can do when healthy. "What you are seeing is a young guy that is beginning to blossom as a player, has been for awhile and making a significant contribution offensively wherever he is in the lineup," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Francis shows improvement in second start
DETROIT -- Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis knew he wasn't as bad as he looked last Saturday in his return to the club. He proved it Friday night.Francis, who was with the Rockies from 2004-10 before joining the Royals last year and spending the early part of this year with the Reds' Triple-A affiliate, gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings of Friday night's 12-4 victory over the Tigers to end the team's eight-game losing streak. When Francis exited, the score was tied at 4. Although he didn't dominate the game, the Rockies' offense proved that the starter keeping them close is often good enough. In Francis' previous outing, the offense had no chance to overcome the 10 hits and eight runs he gave up to the Angels in 3 1/3 innings. "I made some better pitches in some situations, got myself out of some jams," Francis said. "I wanted to limit the damage against us to as little as I could early in the game. "I've got more in me. It was a step in the right direction, but I think I can get ahead of hitters better." Friday was the second time since the eight-game losing streak began that the starting pitcher wasn't in position to lose after leaving the game. Lefty Josh Outman was actually in line for a win Thursday night, but the Rockies blew a lead in the bottom of the ninth and lost to the Athletics, 10-8.
Brothers' solid relief not overlooked by Tracy
DETROIT -- Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers walked the Tigers' Prince Fielder in a planned left-on-left matchup to load the bases in the sixth inning Friday night. But Brothers, in a less favorable matchup, endured several foul balls before striking out Delmon Young on a nasty slider.The sequence kept the game tied at 4. It stayed that way until the Rockies ignited for eight runs in the 10th inning of a 12-4 victory. Brothers pitched solidly the following inning. "It is a building block," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "There's an educational point there, too. If you reflect on how he pitched the seventh inning. He was much more consistent in the strike zone and appeared to be a lot more relaxed. "That's what we're trying to get to with men on base -- make the same type of pitches but relax a little bit more." Brothers, 24, broke camp on the big league roster for the first time in his career but was sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs with a 5.87 ERA through May 19. In eight games since his return, Brothers has posted a 1.17 ERA, held opponents to a .077 batting average and struck out 13 against three walks in 7 2/3 innings.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.