DENVER -- This time, hurting his country's baseball team wasn't such a bad feeling for Jeff Francis.
The left-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Colorado's 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night. It was a stark contrast to the Vancouver native's forgettable performance in the World Baseball Classic, when he was shelled in Canada's 9-1 loss to Mexico back in March.
"I tried my best to treat it just like it was any other start, but it was a lot of fun," said Francis, who grew up rooting for the likes of former Toronto standouts Joe Carter and Dave Stieb.
Francis (3-3) gave up one earned run and four hits in six-plus innings. He benefited from a defense that produced four spectacular run-saving plays.
Nobody came close to getting a hit off Francis until Aaron Hill led off the sixth with a clean blooper to left-center. The Blue Jays mustered three more hits in the inning but only managed one run as the Rockies threw out two runners at the plate to preserve a 3-1 lead.
"They were enormous," Francis said of the throws to home. "I may have shut them down for five innings, but without those two plays, that game is completely different."
Francis was done after walking the first two batters he faced in the seventh, but his defense again saved him.
Shea Hillenbrand hit a sharp grounder to third off reliever David Cortes but Garrett Atkins made a diving stop and threw out the runner at second. Hillenbrand was running all the way when Bengie Molina lined out to a leaping Clint Barmes at shortstop to start an inning-ending double play.
Right-hander Ty Taubenheim (0-1) displayed an equal knack for getting into and out of trouble in his much-anticipated major league debut. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-hander allowed a home run to the second batter he faced, walked his counterpart in the second and plunked two batters in the third.
All the Rockies had to show for it was one run, on Atkins' solo homer, his second in two nights.
"There were definitely some nerves out there, but not to the point where I was like, 'What am I doing?' Just normal nerves," Taubenheim said. "The result wasn't what I wanted. I look back at my walks, a lot of them were on 3-2 pitches and secondary pitches that I felt comfortable with throwing there. It's not like I was walking guys on four straight pitches. I was battling."
His manager thought so, too.
"I thought he pitched great," John Gibbons said. "He kind of had a deja vu with Atkins hitting the homer right out of the chute, but Ty showed me he could pitch. He should feel good about it, he just didn't get a win."
The Rockies scored twice on Taubenheim in the fifth when Brad Hawpe hit a two-run triple to make it 3-0.
Taubenheim called it a night after allowing three earned runs and five hits in five innings. He walked three and plunked two more, an uncharacteristically wild night for a pitcher who hadn't walked more than two batters in any of his eight starts at Triple-A Syracuse, where he had a sparkling 1.26 ERA.
After Hill broke up the no-hitter, John McDonald singled to right and Eric Hinske, pinch hitting for Taubenheim, doubled down the right-field line, scoring Hill. McDonald, however was thrown out by Barmes, who caught Hawpe's throw from right, spun and nailed the runner in a close play at the plate.
Then, it was Holliday's turn. He fielded a single to left by Alex Rios and one-hopped a strike to catcher Danny Ardoin to get Hinske for the third out.
"I have no idea if McDonald was being waved around on that play at the plate, and I don't care," Gibbons said. "We have the best third-base coach in the league (in Brian Butterfield), and they just made a good play. We basically got our (behinds) kicked tonight. They pitched better than us, and they showed what good defense can do."
The Rockies will try for their fourth-ever sweep of an AL club Sunday. ... The Rockies' 24-19 start is the second best in franchise history and a turnaround from last year, when they were 13-30 at this point.