MILWAUKEE -- Victor Santos finally had some margin for error Tuesday night.
Carlos Lee drove in four runs, three on a first-inning homer that gave Santos the cushion he would need on a night where his off-speed pitches were off-target, and Milwaukee's tough-luck right-hander rode his rare run support to a 6-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
"I had a feeling we were going to score some runs today," Santos said after snapping his four-game losing streak.
After going 0-3 this month despite a 3.00 ERA and four straight quality starts, Santos finally got some breathing room when Lee connected off rookie left-hander Jeff Francis (4-2), sending a 1-0 pitch high into the left-field stands for his 10th homer.
"You feel a little more comfortable" with an early lead, said Santos (2-4), who allowed one run and six hits in six innings, striking out six in his first win at Miller Park since Sept. 21.
Lee was glad to finally give Santos the support he's been lacking all month.
"I think that Victor has pitched the best games on this staff right now," Lee said. "I think he's got the worst run support for our team. And it was nice to go out there and give him the lead and let him relax a little bit and go to work."
Francis was trying to go low and away from Lee, whose high-arcing shot was a beauty.
"Obviously it was right down the middle," Francis said. "He did everything he could with it."
And Francis, who had been impressive in winning three straight starts, never recovered.
After Brad Hawpe's solo homer made it 3-1 in the fourth, J.J. Hardy's second double of the game scored Damian Miller and Wes Helms to give Milwaukee a 5-1 lead in the bottom half.
Clint Barmes and Todd Helton each snapped 0-for-17 skids with fifth-inning singles, but Santos got Matt Holliday to chase a third strike in the dirt to end the inning. Milwaukee extended its lead to 6-1 in the bottom half when Jeff Cirillo walked, stole his first base of the season and scored on a single by Lee, who drove in four runs for the fourth time this season.
Although Santos threw his fastball with precision, he was wild early on before striking out two batters in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
"He struggled all night with command of his off-speed stuff, with his breaking ball and his change-up and his split," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "But, he got through it with his fastball."
Judging by some comments from the Colorado clubhouse, Santos' struggles actually worked in his favor.
"He had a lot of pitches he could throw for strikes today," Hawpe said. "He was mixing it up, in and out, a lot of good off-speed pitches and he located his fastball well. That's the whole trick with pitching is to mix it up and locate."
And the trick to getting Santos back in the win column was getting him a big, early lead at long, long last.
"It gives the pitcher the confidence that he can make a few mistakes here and there," Helms said.
Helms, filling in at first base with Lyle Overbay out for a second straight night due to a bruised shin, had his first multihit game of the season, doubling twice off Francis, who allowed six earned runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, his worst outing since April 8 at San Francisco.
"He didn't get the big outs when he needed to, the three-run homer, and then he didn't get Lee out again later on," Colorado bench coach Jamie Quirk said. "When you don't score runs like we are, everything is magnified. You're hoping you can throw some zeros up there, maybe scratch something out.
"But three-run homers usually beat you no matter when they are."