Yanks can't solve Francis in Colorado

Yanks can't solve Francis in Colorado

DENVER -- Andy Pettitte didn't need to watch Matt Holliday's two-run homer clear the wall. Kicking his leg in frustration, the left-hander stalked around the mound and anchored his hands to his hips.

Holliday's tape-measure shot off a cutting changeup was a no-doubter, and at that moment in the sixth inning, it evaporated the Yankees' best chance to win what had once been a masterful pitchers' duel.

Led by Holliday's three RBIs, Kaz Matsui's two-run triple and a sharp pitching performance from Jeff Francis, the Rockies blew past the Yankees at Coors Field on Wednesday, 6-1.

"I picked a bad guy to let it cut to," Pettitte said. "[Holliday] has a lot of power and stays on the slow stuff pretty good. It was just a real bad pitch to make in that situation to him."

Pettitte's exasperation at a near escape from a cardinal sin -- a leadoff walk that inning to the pitcher -- only mounted as he, in his words, "quit pitching" from the point when Holliday's blast landed on a left-field concourse, sending dozens of fans scurrying after the souvenir.

Losing confidence in his changeup and sinker, Pettitte said he trudged on trying to rely on just his fastball and cutter.

"I didn't throw the ball to both sides of the plate like I should have, and when you do that, you make yourself real vulnerable," Pettitte said.

The Rockies took advantage of Pettitte's faltering conviction to the tune of four runs in the seventh, as Willy Taveras singled home Troy Tulowitzki and Matsui ripped his triple down the left-field line, advancing to third when Hideki Matsui couldn't make a clean pickup and chased the ball around the corner.

Matsui scored Colorado's sixth run -- all charged to Pettitte -- when Holliday singled off reliever Luis Vizcaino, putting the game out of reach for the suddenly-slumbering Yankees' bats.

After winning 11 of 12 games through one stretch, the Yankees have now dropped consecutive games for the first time all month and have been limited to just two runs through their first two nights at Coors Field. They will have to try to avoid a series sweep on Thursday behind starter Roger Clemens.

"Especially our starting pitching has been pitching pretty well for us," Hideki Matsui said through an interpreter. "Not being able to score has been frustrating."

In a matchup of left-handers, Francis and Pettitte swapped zeroes through the first five innings, and as Yankees manager Joe Torre noted, Pettitte really did appear to have two different games.

Through the first five frames, Pettitte had limited the Rockies to just two singles and a walk, rifling past Colorado's lineup with efficiency. But Francis was equally tough, holding New York to three hits through five innings before the Yankees broke through with a run in the sixth inning.

Melky Cabrera stroked a one-out double to center field -- the Yankees' first hit off Francis since the second inning -- and Derek Jeter followed with a hard hit inside the third-base bag and down the line for an RBI double.

The lead provided a beacon of light for Pettitte, who had done a good job keeping the Yankees in games, allowing two or fewer runs in 10 of his 14 games this season. One run usually isn't enough to win at Coors Field, even in the post-humidor era, but with Francis firing bullets, Pettitte was happy to have it.

"Obviously, it wasn't much of a lead, but sometimes you've got to go out there and win a pitchers' duel," Pettitte said.

Catcher Jorge Posada said that the strain of the slim lead may have played a role in Pettitte's tightness.

"If we score some runs, it's a different ballgame," Posada said. "He gets to settle down out there. It seemed like he was fighting the whole time."

As it turned out, other than the sixth-inning run, Francis had the Yankees' number. The hurler racked up a career-high nine strikeouts while limiting New York to five hits and a walk in a 100-pitch effort.

After losing to right-hander Josh Fogg in the series opener on Tuesday, the Yankees have been limited to just nine hits through 14 innings by Colorado starters.

"It's tough to pitch when you don't have run support," said Jeter, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games. "You're out there feeling like you've got to make a perfect pitch every time. It's our job to get them some runs."

Unfamiliarity may have played a factor, and perhaps the Yankees' cure will be found in a familiar face on Thursday, former Orioles right-hander Rodrigo Lopez. But as Torre said, once you get through one turn of the order, the excuse of newness should no longer hold water.

"As quickly as we fell into this, we can fall out of it," Torre said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.