Francis goes six in first exhibition in Salt Lake City since 1970
SALT LAKE CITY -- During batting practice Saturday, balls flew beyond the fence in the light air at Spring Mobile Ballpark as the Rockies and Mariners prepared for the first Major League exhibition game in Salt Lake City in 43 years.
They gave plenty of souvenir opportunities during the game, as well. The Mariners' Kendrys Morales homered in the fourth and Justin Smoak went deep in the fifth. In between, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton homered for the Rockies, two batters apart in the fourth.
Even with the power display, the fans also saw decent pitching for six innings from the Rockies' Jeff Francis and four from Mariners rookie Brandon Maurer. In all, the 4-3 Mariners victory was a nice show for a sold-out crowd of 15,411, which was treated to Major League ball for the first time since the Athletics and Padres tussled on April 4, 1970.
The Morales and Smoak homers were a fitting conclusion to a spring that saw the Mariners hit 56 homers in Cactus League play in Arizona. The power was a sign of hope for Rockies fans -- the club's games on Root Sports are televised in the Salt Lake City market as well as in Colorado -- seeing Tulowitzki and Helton go deep as they try to wash out the memory of 2012 seasons shortened by injuries.
Helton also doubled.
Francis, who will start the Rockies' home opener next Friday against the Padres, gave up two runs on five hits, with two walks and two strikeouts.
Francis had strong work in the Cactus League (3-1, 2.70 ERA) and on Saturday displayed the change of speeds that he must use to succeed with below-average fastball velocity.
"It was all positives and it was as good a spring as I've had in my career," Francis said. "But now it doesn't matter. The bottom line is I feel good about how I'm pitching. Now we go into the regular season."
One of the hits Francis allowed -- Jesus Montero's leadoff triple in the third -- was a scary one. Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer and second baseman Josh Rutledge charged from opposite directions and collided near the right-field foul line and bullpen.
Rutledge left the game, having had the air driven from him by Cuddyer's shoulder. Rutledge walked off the field under his own power and the Rockies said he was not seriously hurt.
Maurer, who will make his Major league debut Thursday against the Athletics in Oakland, gave up four hits and struck out three in his tuneup.
The Mariners scored twice in the eighth, on a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly and a Brad Miller RBI double, both against Rockies reliever Matt Belisle.
Up Next for Rockies: Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin experimented with pitches and posted an 8.44 ERA this spring, but that's the past. The Rockies see him as a leader, and it all starts in Monday's opener at Miller Park in Milwaukee at 12:10 p.m. MT.