Phillies, Rockies open series

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Like the rest of his Philadelphia teammates, Cliff Lee is trying to set the table for next season by finishing 2012 strong.

Lee takes the mound on Friday evening aiming to win a third straight start in the opener of a three-game series versus the Colorado Rockies.

The left-handed Lee is just 4-7 through 24 starts despite a respectable 3.52 earned run average. He has, however, won back-to-back starts for the first time this season, giving up just a run over that time.

Lee held the Washington Nationals to a run over seven innings on Aug. 26, then tossed seven scoreless frames in a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. The 34- year-old scattered five hits and a walk while striking out five.

"I think we're just playing better, well-rounded baseball," Lee said of the recent turnaround.

The former AL Cy Young Award winner has split his two previous career meetings with the Rockies, taking the loss this season on July 13 in Colorado. Lee yielded a pair of earned runs in six innings of work.

Philadelphia won for the ninth time in 13 games on Wednesday, taking a 6-2 victory over the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds.

Roy Halladay hurled 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball, while Erik Kratz hit a three-run homer and Chase Utley added a two-run shot as the Phils concluded a six-game road trip at 4-2.

"I feel like the young guys that have come in and play every day have been very good for us and kind of given us a little bit of life," Halladay said. "I feel like our pitching the last month has been a lot better."

The Rockies could use that kind of confidence given how their last two games have gone. Colorado lost three of four to the Braves to begin the week, dropping the final two encounters despite yielding only one unearned run in each. That still resulted in a pair of 1-0 defeats.

"We got a lot of young guys out there right now playing and we got to learn from these mistakes," Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi said. "You got to kind of be careful in these tight games against good teams because you might not get an opportunity to beat them by making a few mistakes."

Taking the hill for the Rockies in this opener will be veteran Jeff Francis, who is 2-0 over his last six starts since a loss on Aug. 4.

The 31-year-old southpaw has watched Colorado plate 21 runs over his last two outings and that helped him get a no-decision against the San Diego Padres on Sunday despite giving up six runs -- five earned -- on 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings. Colorado won the game, 11-10.

Francis is 5-4 with a 5.73 ERA in 18 starts this season and holds a lifetime mark of 1-1 with a 6.03 ERA in six meetings with the Phillies. He faced them in Philadelphia on June 21 in his third outing of 2012 and did not factor into the decision after yielding a run over five innings.

The Phillies have won seven of nine and 13 of their last 16 versus the Rockies. They have also taken nine of the previous 11 encounters in Philadelphia.