Phillies-Rockies preview

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DENVER -- A brief road trip for the Philadelphia Phillies and a short homestand for the Colorado Rockies will take both clubs to the All-Star break.

They teams begin a four-game series Thursday night at Coors Field.

The Phillies, who just finished a 5-1 homestand against Kansas City and Atlanta by sweeping a three-game series with the Braves, have won eight of their past nine games. Philadelphia, 19-23 on the road, has won three consecutive series, one shy of its season high.

In their first 71 games through June 20, the Phillies scored a major-league-low 221 runs, an average of 3.1 per game. In their past 15 games, they have scored 87 runs, an average of 5.8 per game.

The Phillies hit 24 home runs in their past 15 games, going 10-5 in that stretch. In their previous 24 games, they went 4-20 while hitting 24 home runs.

Maikel Franco has homered in four straight games, the first Phillies player to do so since Ryan Howard accomplished the feat Sept. 19-22, 2012.

Franco is one shy of the Phillies' record for homers in consecutive games. Chase Utley (twice during the 2008 season), Bobby Abreu, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Dick Allen homered in five straight games for the Phillies. Franco has yet to homer at Coors Field, where he is 4-for-15 with a double and three RBIs in four games.

Franco hit .375 with six homers and 16 RBIs in his past 15 games, coinciding with the team's 10-5 surge. When the Phillies weren't hitting, Franco was overly aggressive. In the 15-game surge, however, he has drawn nine walks in 66 plate appearances, including a key walk in the eighth inning Wednesday ahead of Freddy Galvis' game-winning, two-run homer. Franco drew 16 walks in his first 263 plate appearances this season.

"Sometimes when you get frustrated, when you see the team not doing (well), that's the first thing you think about -- you want to go out there and try to do something, and obviously at that point you try to do too much," Franco said. "But right now, I just feel comfortable at the plate. The team's showing a lot of energy. We're playing as a team."

Aaron Nola's turn in the rotation comes up Thursday, but manager Pete Mackanin said the Phillies want to give Nola, who is in his first full season in the big leagues, time to "clear his head." Nola is 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA in his past five starts, though he retired the final 10 Royals he faced Saturday with six strikeouts.

Rather than make one more start before the All-Star break, Nola will throw a simulated game at Coors Field during the series, and left-hander Adam Morgan, who is 1-6 with a 6.31 ERA in 13 games, 11 starts, the last on June 22, will replace him Thursday. Morgan will face the Rockies for the first time.

Morgan just left the rotation to become the long man in the bullpen when Vince Velasquez was reinstated from the disabled list June 27.

The Rockies, who have lost seven of their past eight games, are returning home after a 1-5 road trip to face the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. They scored one run in four of the losses and were shut out in the other.

The one win came Tuesday at San Francisco. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner left after six scoreless innings, and the Rockies erupted for seven runs in the seventh and eighth and won 7-3.

A night earlier, after the Rockies lost their season-high sixth consecutive game, first baseman Mark Reynolds said, "It's a snowball going in the wrong direction. We have to get out of this hole we dug ourselves into."

They did -- for one night. Then San Francisco's Johnny Cueto limited them to five singles Wednesday night in his complete-game 5-1 win.

Chad Bettis, who is 6-6 with a 5.85 ERA, will start the first game with the Phillies. He lost his last start Saturday at Los Angeles when he allowed four runs in six innings in a 6-1 defeat. In his past two starts, Bettis is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA, having allowed 18 hits and 11 runs in 11 innings.

The right-hander was 4-2 with a 4.18 ERA on May 17. In eight subsequent starts, he is 2-4 with an 8.24 ERA.

After getting pushed around on the road by the Dodgers and Giants, the Rockies will play their next four series, totaling 14 games, against teams with losing records. That stretch starts against the Phillies, albeit a hot Phillies club at this point, and gives the Rockies their latest chance to assert themselves at Coors Field.

Given their historic road woes, the Rockies need to dominate at home, but are just 18-20 in Denver this season.